Wake Forest guard Hunter Sallis scored a season-high 24 points and forward Andrew Carr threw in 22 more and grabbed six rebounds, as the host Demon Deacons used a second-half surge to erase a nine-point deficit and hand Florida a frustrating 82-71 defeat Wednesday night in their meeting in the inaugural SEC/ACC Challenge at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Sallis the transfer from Gonzaga and former McDonald's All American, hit eight of his 15 shots, two of four 3s and six of seven free throws to go with four points and four assists. Carr, the 6-foot-10 transfer from Delaware, went 8-for-13 overall and 3-for-6 from deep, including a tie-breaking 3 with 8:45 to play that gave the Deacs their first lead since late in the first half. Wake worked the margin out to six, but the Gators came back to twice tie the score before Wake scored the first five points of what turned into a 10-1 run that basically put the game away. The Gators, playing their third straight game without 7-foot-1 starting center Micah Handlogten, allowed the Deacs to shoot 49 percent for the game and a red-hot 61.5 in the second half when they put in 16 of 26 from the floor on the way to scoring 28 points in the paint and 20 from the free-throw line. Florida, which managed just 40 percent for the game and turned the ball over 15 times (10 in the second half) leading to 22 Wake points, were paced by sophomore guard Riley Kugel, who for the second straight game reached his career-high of 24 points. Grad forward Tyrese Samuel had 12 points and eight rebounds. The Gators led by nine with 15 minutes to go, but once the Deacs clawed back to even the game the crowd became a factor and UF did not respond. UF had no field goals over the final four minutes.
What it Means
That's two straight losses (this one way, way worse than the last), both while trying to figure out the best lineups sans Handlogten. The Gators split their string of four consecutive games against high-major opponents and Coach Todd Golden won't be happy about. Now they'll have some time (with the next game five days away) to process their rotation options while waiting for their starting center to return.
In the Spotlight
Wake Forest was 0-3 against power conference teams thus far, including two losses to Southeastern Conference teams. The Deacons were beaten 80-77 at Georgia and by LSU 86-80 in overtime at the Charleston Classic. Beating Florida was quite the skin to get for Coach Steve Forbes and his program, especially the way UF performed last week at the NIT Season Tip-Off in Brooklyn, N.Y., including that tight 95-91 loss to No. 13 Baylor.
Just can't allow opponents to shoot 61.5 percent in the second half and expect to win. Remember, Baylor shot 55 percent in its win Friday.
Florida (4-3) is off through the weekend, with its next game a home date against Merrimack (3-4), out of the Northeast Conference. The Warriors played at Georgetown Wednesday night and will be home against UMass Lowell on Saturday before making their way to Gainesville.