Deacs Close Regular Season with 96-88 Win Over Clemson
March 8, 2009
WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina - Al-Farouq Aminu and James Johnson each scored a game-high 21 points to lead No. 10 Wake Forest to a 96-88 win over No. 18/19 Clemson on Sunday night in front of a soldout crowd at the Joel Coliseum.
With the win, Wake Forest improves to 24-5 and 11-5 in Atlantic Coast Conference play, while Clemson falls to 23-7 and 9-7 in league play.
The Deacs continued their dominance over the Tigers at the Joel Coliseum. Wake Forest has now won 17 straight games at home against Clemson and holds a 97-52 advantage in the all-time series.
Aminu recorded his second-straight double-double and 10th of the season, scoring a game-high 21 points and bringing down a team-high 10 rebounds. Johnson also tallied 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field. Johnson was one rebound shy of posting a double-double, bringing down nine rebounds.
Wake Forest had one of its best shooting nights from the field, finishing the game 34-of-57 (59.6 percent) from the floor. Clemson also shoot the ball well, becoming only the third team to shot better than 50 percent from the field against Wake Forest.
With starting guard Jeff Teague in foul trouble, Ishmael Smith played well off the bench, recording his seventh straight double-figure performance with 13 points. Smith also added a game-high six assists. Teague also had a double-digit point performance, scoring 15 points for his 33rd straight double-figure point game. Chas McFarland was the fifth Wake Forest player to score at least 10 points, finishing the game with 14 points.
The Tigers were led by K.C. Rivers and Demontez Stitt, who each scored 21 points in the game. Trevor Booker added 18 points for Clemson.
Wake Forest honored its three seniors before the game. Harvey Hale, Bobby Hoekstra, Mike Lepore and Jimmy McQuilkin each played their final game at the Joel Coliseum. Hale got the start in his final home game, making the 47th starting appearance of his career.
Neither team was able to pull away in the early going. Wake Forest had a four-point lead on a couple of occasions, including a 23-19 edge with 8:25 left. Clemson responded with a 15-3 run to take a 34-26 lead with 5:29 left in the first half. Rivers scored eight straight points during the stretch and the run was capped off by a dunk from Booker.
Wake Forest answered right back with four straight points to cut the lead to 34-30. McFarland and Ishmael Smith each made layups to trim the Tiger lead to four.
The Tigers grabbed their largest lead of the first half with 1:19 remaining, taking a 44-34 advantage. Demontez Stitt scored the final 10 points of the half for Clemson, including a layup that extended the lead to 10.
Wake Forest closed the half on a 6-0 run to cut Clemson's halftime lead to four. The half was capped off by a beautiful Demon Deacon fastbreak. David Weaver threw a behind the back pass to Smith, who laid the ball off to Aminu for a two-hand dunk to make the score 44-40 at intermission.
The two teams traded buckets to start the second half. Trailing 56-51, Wake Forest scored five straight points to tie the game at 56. Teague hit a three to cut the lead to two and Weaver's dunk with 15:40 remaining evened the game.
After Andre Young made a free throw to give the Tigers a 57-56 lead with 15:05 left, Wake Forest scored the next four points to take a 60-57 lead with 13:40 left. Johnson made back-to-back layups to give the Deacs a three-point lead and force a Clemson time out.
Clemson answered back with a 7-2 run to retake the lead with 11:50 to go. Stitt scored four straight points and David Potter knocked down a trey to give the Tigers a 64-62 lead.
With Wake Forest leading 71-69 with eight minutes remaining, the Deacs went on a 14-5 run over the next four-plus minutes to stretch the lead out to 85-74. Johnson scored five points during the run, including a dunk that stretch the lead out to 12, the largest lead of the night for Wake Forest. After Terrence Oglesby made a three to trim the lead to nine, L.D. Williams came right back and converted an old fashioned three-point play to extend the lead back to 12 with 3:46 to go.
Clemson was not able to seriously threaten Wake Forest down the stretch. The Tigers cut the lead to eight on a pair of occasions toward the end of the game, but could get no closer.
Wake Forest earned the second seed and a first-round bye in next week's ACC Tournament at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The Deacs open play in the tournament on Friday, March 13, at 7:00 p.m. against the winner of the Maryland/NC State game.