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January 25, 2012

Wake Forest vs. No. 23 Florida State: Preview

Wake Forest vs. No. 23 Florida State
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Venue: Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Tip-off: Wednesday at 7:00 PM ET
TV/Internet: Raycom Sports Network and ESPN3.com
Current records:
Wake Forest: 11-8, 2-3 ACC (Beat Boston College 71-56).
Florida State: 13-6, 4-1 ACC (Beat Duke 76-73).

Series history: The Demon Deacons have an all-time series lead of 23-19, but the Seminoles have won three straight including last season's two-game sweep by a combined 42 points.

Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik on Florida State:

"They're grown men, and that's not a cliché. They are. They've got a lot of experience under their belt, and it has shown over the last few weeks with the way they've played. They're also a team that like anybody else when they don't respect a game and don't play hard and with passion and execute and make shots they can beat like anybody else."

"Everybody is beatable. I don't care who you are. We've seen evidence of that. We all know that. You have to play very hard. You have to play with great passion. You have to play with great energy, and you have to play with great belief. On top of that you have to play well. We're capable of doing all of those things on any given night just like anybody else."

"I think a couple of things. Number one, don't turn the ball over, and give yourself a chance to manufacture quality shots against a team that's one of the best defensive teams in the country. Our ability to score is something that's going to be challenged, and Rebounding. They're very strong on the glass. Rebounding and manufacturing quality shots, and then making those shots."

"They're a very balanced team. They can hit you in a lot of different ways, inside and with they're threes. They're the best three-point shooting team in the ACC. They're also one of the best rebounding teams. They have great low-post bulk, presence, size and ability with depth. They are a team that can go a long way in the NCAA Tournament."

Deacons Illustrated breaks down the keys to the game for Wake Forest:

1) Breaking down barriers - The Seminoles may be the best and certainly one of the elite defensive teams in the ACC and certainly the country. Florida State leads the ACC in field-goal percentage defense (.369) and blocked shots (6.5 per game), is third in three-point field-goal percentage defense (.275), and ranks fifth in scoring defense (62.5 points per game).

In its losses Wake Forest often lived and ultimately died by the three-pointer. Against the Noles the Demon Deacons must find a way to go inside first, and then work their way out to be successful defensively.

As the point guard Tony Chennault will be integral to initiating this with dribble penetration. If Chennault can break through the first line of defense on the perimeter he will force FSU to collapse, creating opportunities for others. The sophomore from Philadelphia has scored in double figures the last two games, which commands respect from the opposition.

2) Leave no stone unturned - The Deacs did not struggle as badly in this area against Boston College as they did at Duke, but overcompensating to defend the three has left the lane open for easy layup opportunities.

Andre Dawkins made 7-10 first-half three pointers in Wake's 18-point loss to the Blue Devils. When the Demon Deacons realized it may be a good idea to deny Dawkins the ball, and at the very least get a hand in his face they went over the top as Seth Curry and Austin Rivers repeatedly scored on uncontested drives in the second half.

Wake encounters a similar challenge from the Seminoles, as Deividas Dulkys made 8-10 three pointers in a 90-57 upset win over then No. 3 North Carolina and Michael Snaer made a halftime buzzer-beating trifecta and a last-second game-winning three-pointer at then No. 4 Duke last Saturday.

However, Florida State as a team has been streaky behind the arc (32.7-percent from three) this season, so if the Deacs can make the Noles settle for threes Wake's chances improve dramatically.

Rebounds and turnovers - Wake Forest has to finish with an edge in at least one of these categories, and finish close behind in the other. FSU's size, strength and depth inside are overwhelming for many teams.

The Seminoles physicality got into the head of UNC forward John Henson. Wake's bigs will have to muster a toughness that is similar to or greater than that of FSU's literally battle-tested frontline if they hope to be competitive on the boards. The Demon Deacons are allowing opponents to outrebound them by four per game.

Taking care of the ball has been a problem at times for the Wake Forest guards. In the embarrassing 76-40 loss to NC State Chennault dribbled out of bounds repeatedly, and freshman Anthony Fields' minutes have lessened significantly this month.

The Demon Deacons average nearly 13 turnovers a game, and have a shaky assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.9. Wake must be vigilant in its ball-protection against an aggressive Florida State defense.


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