There is a lot to take away from the Purdue game as an indicator of just where this Wake Forest team is. Two straight losses is really disheartening, but in a way, the losses now may actually be better than going 16-0 again, especially for this roster.
Let's go into the box...
I'll start with the four factors. As a refresher, the four factors are a general indicator of a team's chances based on shooting, taking care of the ball, offensive rebounding and FTs. As you can tell, Purdue won all but effective FG%. The Boilermakers were really pulled down by their 3PT% yesterday, but the most glaring part of the graph is the TO%.
In their 76 possessions, Wake turned it over 25 times. That's 32.9%. Purdue on the other hand, was at 11.8%. This resulted in an efficiency over 14 points higher than the Demon Deacons and gave the Boilermakers 12 more FT attempts and 12 more shots (although Purdue's 13 offensive rebounds to Wake's 8 played a part.).
Wake took 28 less threes than last game. That's not an error. It was the right strategy, to an extent. I know I'm going against what I usually say in saying this, so I can accept the heat, but Wake should have taken a few more--around 15. In the second half, Purdue was completely clogging the lane and not only did the bigs have no room to take the entry pass, but Ish Smith and CJ Harris were unable to get to the hole with any ease at all. Spreading the floor would have kept Purdue honest and actually would have given Wake a better chance on offensive rebounds since there would be less white jerseys in the lane.
To move onto offensive rating, which is the best indicator of how a player performed, the stats make sense according to what we saw on the floor. CJ Harris led the Deacs at 133, which was tops among all players. He turned the ball over 3 times, but outside of that, his eFG% was 75, again highest from all teams, and he had the lowest turnover % of all the players.
LD was next, and anyone watching had to notice that he had his best overall game to date. He carried a 105 offensive rating and shot 5-8 with 6 rebounds and a solid 3 offensive rebounds. This is exactly the kind of game LD should play all of the time.
Ish Smith, as I was surprised to find out, had the second lowest TO% on the team. It may have seemed like he was playing out of control at times and was sloppy, but for the amount of time he had the ball in his hands, he actually did a good job, especially considering he was swarmed by Purdue players the entire second half.
Don't attribute Wake's offensive struggles to poor play alone. Simply put, Purdue is an excellent defensive team. They are 37th in defensive eFG%, 23rd in opponent's 3PT%, 35th in block%, 8th in assists allowed, 23rd in steal% and 4th in defensive efficiency.
I know those are a lot of numbers to look at, but really the most important stat in this instance is that they are 8th in opponent's TO%. That spells trouble for their opponents and actually explains some of the turnovers that plagued the Demon Deacons.
There are some things that are simply inexcusable out of Wake Forest. They are 187th in FTA/FGM, which is just wrong considering the fact that this team has huge post players, a 6'9" driving star and two penetrating guards. This team needs to get back to shooting free throws like it did early on in the season last year.
To add insult to injury, they are shooting 63% from the line, which is 274th overall.
Those things need to improve. They just do.
Defensively, I saw the most promise I have seen all year out of this team and it may end up giving Wake a couple more wins this year. Wake is 2nd in opponent's FG%, which is an incredible stat. They are 6th in opponent's 3PT% (at 22%), 25th in block% and 45th overall. They foul too much and send teams to the line too often, and that is something they need to do better. But to be honest, there is a lot of promise to the defense.
So what does this all mean?
Well, Wake Forest has a lot of issues to address--notably, their fouling, their FTA and FT%, turnovers and an overall offensive efficency that ranks 159th in the country. The sample size is still small, but we have enough games to see trends. Saturday's game at Gonzaga will be telling. While Purdue has struggled offensively at times, Gonzaga is a more efficient team coming off wins over two top 50 teams. They also have a great home court advantage.
Wake is at one of those "come to Jesus" moments. They can go one of two directions: use their defense to be their identity and work on their offensive execution, or get too frustrated and impatient, causing the defense to suffer and the offense to get worse. And Gonzaga is the first step toward knowing which of the two it will be.