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UNC vs. Wake Forest: Three Things to Watch

The Tar Heels are now in the Danger Zone and need a win against a Wake Forest team that just woke up.

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Two losses in a row have Tar Heel fans in their feelings, and they’re not wrong to feel confused and even angry. After losing a game they should have won against Pitt, and losing a game they should have managed better against Duke, Carolina suddenly finds itself in deep water with little daylight left. It’s time to swim or it’s time to drown.

A trip to Winston-Salem is never on anyone’s dream sheet, but Wake Forest was mired in a four-game losing streak until putting belt to ass on Notre Dame last Saturday. The Demon Deacons started the game slowly, only scoring four points in the first ten minutes, and looked well on their way to a fifth consecutive loss, before exploding in the second half.

Here are three things to watch as UNC looks to sweep Wake Forest away tomorrow night.

Stop fouling

I’ve got to give it up to Duke freshman Dereck Lively. He was an absolute force in Cameron on Saturday night, with 8 blocks and 14 rebounds. He also helped put Armando Bacot in foul trouble—the UNC senior finished with four and had to play half-cocked for much of the second half.

RJ Davis had foul issues as well (also finishing with four) and it affected how hard he could play Jeremy Roach.

These two key offensive players cannot afford to let that happen again. When they sit, Carolina loses too much offensive ability and outlet, especially if Leaky Black is unwilling to shoot, or Pete Nance is having a historically bad night.

Tyree Appleby, Wake Forest’s point guard, goes to the line a ton. He’s crafty and fits in all the nooks and crannies. He also plays a ton of minutes (Appleby played all 40 minutes against Notre Dame and 38 in Chapel Hill) so tomorrow would be a great night to throw Dunn and Trimble at him some and make him work full court to suffocate Wake’s offense a bit.


Wake Forest was sleep walking in South Bend and only managed to go into halftime with a one-point lead thanks to Monsanto’s three 3-pointers. The 6’6” guard exploded in the second half, scoring three of Wake’s next four field goals (all 3-pointers) to stretch their lead to 8, and the Deacons never looked back from there.

Damari Monsanto is a menace. After a poor shooting night in a 2-point loss at Duke (3-12 from downtown), he got right against the Irish in a big way, scoring 28 points on 8-13 shooting from distance.

This is not a flash in the pan. Monsanto has hit at least five 3-pointers six times this season! And he’s like a Bizarro Leaky Black—as soon as the ball touches his hands, he’s putting it up. Leaky actually got the better of him in Chapel Hill earlier this season, scoring more points (18-17) and shooting better from three (3-5 vs. 3-8). If Leaky wins this matchup, Carolina probably wins the game.

Stop thinking too much, Pete Nance

Carolina isn’t going to suddenly start experiencing huge bumps in bench scoring (Hubert Davis’s methodology for playing subs is a whole other topic for another day). So if we accept that UNC is now an Iron Five type of team, the scoring balance among the starters at Duke was nearly ideal—except for that Pete Nance sized hole in the middle of it.

I don’t want to bag on the guy because 1.) we know he’s not Brady Manek and he never claimed to be and 2.) he’s dealing with that lower back issue, which has got to suck when Filipowski and Lively start backing you down.

Nance aggressively hunting his shot more can accomplish two things. It can relieve some pressure on Bacot, especially if he has a smaller defender one-on-one (Nance has shown a penchant for backing down small defenders and hitting a nice turnaround). It also takes shots away from Caleb Love.

RJ Davis actually shot one more shot than Caleb at Duke (5-16 vs 5-15) but based on recent evidence prior to the Syracuse injury, you’d be happy to see RJ shoot more, especially from three (he was hitting 56.3% on 3-pointers in the six games before Syracuse). Caleb can hit shots and he’s shown that, but he’s also had some good moments as a driver and distributor. If Nance gets to the spots he likes to shoot from and can hit enough to score 12 or more on 60%+ shooting, UNC will be in great shape.