Tonight the Miami Hurricanes (17-5, 6-4) welcome the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (9-14, 2-9) to the Watsco Center, as they look to win their third straight game since the loss of Bruce Brown Jr.
Back in the polls at #25, the ‘Canes enter the contest winners of 4 of their last 5, and find themselves in 4th place in the ACC. A loss to Wake would be damaging for a ‘Canes team that looks like it is finding it’s groove again after a bit of slump in mid-January. In their last game the ‘Canes traveled to Virginia Tech and took it to a Hokies’ squad that was squarely on the bubble. The ‘Canes dominated early, opening up a 16 point lead, and when the Hokies made a run, the ‘Canes were able to stymie it and secure the victory.
The reemergence of Anthony Lawrence II was perhaps the best news for the ‘Canes, as the struggling forward put up a career high 25 points in the victory over the Hokies. Amp has looked lost at times this season, but against Florida State it looked like he started to find his swagger. Saturday he proved it wasn’t a fluke, and he will look to build off of his career best against struggling Wake Forest.
The Demon Deacons are currently ranked 14th in the ACC, but just one week ago shocked a Florida State Seminoles team that was fresh off an overtime win against the ‘Canes. Even with Wake’s subpar record, this isn’t a game that the Hurricanes should be looking past. Wake has managed to hang tight in a lot of games this season and 6 of their 9 ACC losses have come by single digits (not to mention a 10 point loss against Virginia).
Both teams are evenly matched in terms of rebounding, assists, and point per game, but if there is one area that the ‘Canes have a distinct advantage it is on the defensive end. Wake is giving up 74.7 PPG (right in line with Miami’s average PPG at 75.3), while the ‘Canes give up just 65.7 PPG. The defense will need to be good again tonight to prevent the upset, as Wake comes into the game with a plethora of shooters.
As with most upset-minded teams, if Wake is going to have any chance in this game, it will all start with their ability to knock down the long ball. Mitchell Wilbekin and Keyshawn Woods are both shooting over 41% from 3 and lead the way for a team that shoots 38.4% from beyond the arc. Then there is Bryant Crawford who leads the Demon Deacons in scoring with 16.0 PPG and has the ability to score in many ways, shooting 34.5% from 3 and 90% from the charity stripe.
Ultimately, the ‘Canes are the superior team here and need to come out on top in a home game against a team that sits near the bottom of the ACC. Even if Wake is able to knock down some shots, the ‘Canes proved against VT that they have the ability to answer, especially in crunch time. Lonnie Walker IV and Dewan Huell should lead the way for the ‘Canes offense and prove to be too much for Wake’s defense to handle. The ‘Canes defensive plan should be simple, and guarding the arc should be the top priority.
The ‘Canes will continue to roll, and will have just one more obstacle to overcome as they inch closer to their colossal matchup against Virginia.
Canes 83 - Wake 71