The No. 15 Miami Hurricanes improved to 15-0 at home and rattled off their sixth straight win with strong performances from Isaiah Wong and Nijel Pack on Saturday afternoon. The two guards combined for 51 points en route to a 96-87 victory over Wake Forest at the Watsco Center.
Wong led the way with 27 points, while forward Norchad Omier snagged a team-high eight boards in front of almost 8,000 fans. Wake Forest had six players score in double figures, with prolific guard Tyree Appleby netting a team-high 15 points, and forward Bobi Klintman bringing in 12 rebounds.
Omier opened the game on a 7-0 run, including a rare 3-pointer followed by a not-so-rare transition slam. However, the Demon Deacons converted on their second chance points to keep up with the ‘Canes.
Miami (22-5, 13-4 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)) went on a 17-3 run with just over six minutes to play before halftime. Wong caught fire at the end of the first half, scoring 13 straight points in a three-minute stretch. His breakaway two-handed jam capped his run and brought the fans at the Watsco Center to their feet.
“It was kinda a heat check I felt like, scored that first one and just kept on rolling,” Wong said. “Nijel hit me for one of them, and I really appreciated that from his end, but it was just a hot streak, and I just kept on shooting and it kept on going in.”
Miami led Wake Forest (17-10, 9-7 ACC) 47-44 at halftime. The Hurricanes shot 67% from the field and over 55% from deep in the first half. Miami also led the Demon Deacons 14-6 in points off turnovers.
Wake Forest stayed close in the second half, but the Hurricanes’ ACC-leading offense was too difficult to overcome.
Pack and Wong combined for 51 points, with the Kansas State transfer notching a season-high 24 points. Miami’s 96 points were tied for the most it has ever scored in an ACC game in regulation.
“Isaiah Wong is one of the premier players in our league. He’s a hard guy to guard, and when he makes 3s, he’s almost impossible to defend,” Wake Forest head coach Steve Forbes said. “Ya know, Pack is a great addition to their team, he made a couple of timely 3s there right when we were making our run.”
Pack struggled to guard Louisville’s El Ellis last Saturday, but he was terrific against Wake Forest star Tyree Appleby, who finished the game with a career-high 12 turnovers. Appleby entered the game as the Demon Deacons’ leading scorer and was held to 15 points in the contest.
“Well, ya know, it’s really a team effort, cause what happens with a player like Appleby is he has the ball in his hands so much, and he’s either going to shoot it or pass it, and we wanted him to pass it,” Miami head coach Jim Larrañaga said. “So we actually didn’t double-team him, like trap him, but we put a great emphasis on trying to make him give the ball up.”
Pack also brought Miami’s bench to its feet when he dunked off a fastbreak, his second dunk in the past week.
“I guess it’s just something I do now, so I was like, ‘I gotta think of a celebration or something to do after I dunk because this is starting to happen a little too often for me,’” Pack said. “It’s fun, maybe they’ll run a lob for [me] in the game sometime now that they can see I can get off the floor a little bit.”
Miami (22-5, 13-4 ACC) is still within striking distance of the top spot in the ACC with only four regular-season games remaining. First-place Virginia leads Miami in the conference by just half a game.
Next up, the ‘Canes head to Cassell Coliseum for a 7 p.m. tipoff on Tuesday, Feb. 21, against Virginia Tech on ESPNU.