Wake Forest’s road struggles have cost the team significant ground in the highly competitive ACC race. The Demon Deacons hope continued success at home can help them make it up.
The 13th-ranked Demon Deacons look to rebound from their latest road defeat and avenge a loss in Raleigh two weeks ago when they host North Carolina State on Thursday night.
After winning its first two conference road games, Wake Forest (20-5, 7-5) has dropped its last four to take a tumble in the ACC standings. Though they’re ranked 13th in the country, the Demon Deacons are fifth in their own conference.
“This is the ACC and every game is going to be tough,” sophomore guard Jeff Teague said after a 101-91 road defeat against then-No. 9 Duke on Sunday night. “Everybody is fighting for position. It’s the best conference. It doesn’t matter if you have a bullseye.”
Wake Forest’s road struggles include an 82-76 loss to N.C. State on Feb. 11. The Demon Deacons shot 50.0 percent and held the Wolfpack (15-10, 5-7) to 42.6 percent, but got outscored 23-9 at the free-throw line in their fourth loss in five games in the series.
Sophomore forward James Johnson had 18 points and nine rebounds in that game, while Teague - first on the team and third in the conference with 20.3 points per game - finished with only 11. He took only three field goal attempts against the Wolfpack’s box-and-one defense.
Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio said he anticipated that defensive scheme, but his team didn’t respond well to it despite practicing for it for two days.
“He was standing around a lot,” N.C. State guard Farnold Degand said of Teague. “I think that definitely took them out of their offense and helped us out a lot.”
The Wolfpack can likely expect a different Demon Deacons team to show up Thursday night in Winston-Salem, where Wake Forest is 5-1 in conference with wins over then-No. 3 North Carolina, then-No. 1 Duke and then-No. 25 Florida State.
“They’re going to be energized,” N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe told the team’s official Web site. “With their fans there, it’s going to be a hostile environment. We got them the first time and they’re going to want to pay us back. That’s normal. We have to keep our composure and execute our offense.”
In his only previous home game against N.C. State, Teague had 25 points and seven rebounds in a 78-67 win March 8.
“(Teague) is a great competitor and certainly he wasn’t pleased with his game here at N.C. State,” Lowe said. “I’m sure they’ll figure out some ways to get him open and get him the basketball. … You can’t stop him, but if we can control him it will give us a better chance to win the ballgame.”
Wake Forest may have to make some defensive adjustments of its own after giving up a season-high point total in Sunday’s loss. The Demon Deacons shot 61.0 percent, but their typically stingy defense allowed the Blue Devils to hit 54.1 percent - the highest mark against Wake Forest this season.
N.C. State has looked perfectly capable of delivering that kind of performance in its last three games. The Wolfpack have combined to shoot 55.9 percent, including 50.9 percent (28-for-55) from 3-point range, while going 2-1 over that stretch. They followed an 89-80 road loss to then-No. 3 North Carolina with a 72-67 home win over Virginia on Saturday.
Brandon Costner, leading N.C. State with 14.3 points per game, was held scoreless Saturday. The 6-foot-9 junior forward had 23 points and nine rebounds against Wake Forest two weeks ago.
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