Well, good news everyone! We didn't come in last place in the Old Spice Classic. Not only that, we're already halfway to last season's win total, and one of our two losses was a tough, likely draining (in multiple ways) loss to a Dayton squad that is now in the finals tonight. Wake led by as many as 17 before the Red Raiders stormed back to cut it within 4 with under 7 remaining, but after that it was all Deacs, and while the squads would continue trading scores when Wake got it back up to double digits, it just wasn't enough for Tech. Again, as is a common theme this year, there were encouraging flashes of play as well as frustrating ones, but honestly, given the season we had last year and the young, depleted roster we currently have to deal with, that's mostly what we should probably get used to on the year, and we really can only hope for the stretches of encouraging play to become more consistent and solid, and I feel like we got that this game.
For more specifics, and also some tourney-wide thoughts, read more after the jump....-Some general team wide thoughts: our offense was okay again, defense was good in terms of forcing turnovers and generally not giving up easy shots, but holy cow when TTU was open they were WIDE open, and I almost had an aneurysm a couple of times with our at times non-existent presence on the offensive glass. 21-51 overall shooting for Wake (41.2%) and a rough day on the perimeter, 5-17 (29.4%). The good news if there is any in terms of the rough perimeter shooting day is they were often wide open looks for guys like Chase and C.J. and we know they can make those shots, they just didn't want to go down. It honestly wouldn't shock me if the guys had tired legs and that possibly contributed some too. The Deacs as a team did a BEAUTIFUL job drawing fouls and getting to the line, and they did a pretty darn good job converting the opportunities there as well, shooting 23-29 (79.3%) from the stripe. Robert Lewandowski, one of TTU's starting big men, fouled out after 24 minutes, and that was absolutely HUGE considering he had 6 points and 6 rebounds in the time he was in the game, so it's clear to me the Deacs took away a big presence inside early with smart, aggressive play. The Deacs did a fairly decent job of moving the ball, with 11 team assists to 12 team turnovers. Not ideal ratio by any means, but acceptable, especially considering last year's woes.
-Defensively, the Deacs gave up a 43.4% shooting percentage, 3-10 from 3 to the Red Raiders. Ty Nurse, TTU's leading scorer, didn't play at all in the first half, something that was never really explained, but even when he did get in the game, he was INCREDIBLY tentative, and actually never even attempted a shot in 17 minutes. Jordan Tolbert was another bizarre case; the freshman forward was hyped up in the ESPN3 pregame, and was actually playing pretty well (3-4 shooting and 2 rebounds) but picked up two fouls in 9 minutes and didn't play again after that. Really peculiar. Wake forced several TTU players to play with foul trouble early and for long stretches, and I think that really helped us, not only because we got to the line a lot, but also because the TTU players probably played a little bit tentatively after that.
Now for some individual notes:
-Travis McKie was once again Wake's all-everything, putting up 20 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, and an absolutely filthy block. Travis was also 2 of 4 from 3. The big thing though is that Travis finally got really aggressive inside on both ends of the floor. He had a dunk in the game that literally made me exclaim out loud in excitement, and was 8-9 from the line. Travis was amazingly active on D as well.
-C.J. Harris also killed it. 20 points, 8-9 from the line, 2-5 from 3, 2 rebounds, and a team high five assists. Honestly, that statline doesn't even begin to explain how vital C.J. was in the game. Offensively, basically everything went through C.J. C.J.'s D was also good as I recall. Actually, just assume everybody's D was GENERALLY nice unless I otherwise note.
-Tony Chennault also had another good game. 14 points (6-11, 2-2 from the line), 3 rebounds (2 offensive), 2 assists, and 3 steals. The only major issue is he had a team high 4 turnovers.
-Nikita Mescheriakov is killing me. He put up decent stats (9 points, 6 rebounds, 3-4 from the line, 2 assists, a steal, and no turnovers) but he missed so many bunny shots and let a bunch of rebounds get away from him. He also let himself get blown by on D several times. Now as I said, he had pretty solid contributions, so I don't want to dog him too much, it's just frustrating because it seems like he's aggressive when he needs to back off and lets things go when he needs to stay with it. I'm hoping Nikita can work on this balance in the future because I seriously think if he can find a good balance, he can really become a strong player for us this year, which he needs to be if we're gonna upset some people this year.
-Carson Desrosiers had a rough game statistically. He played 18 minutes, and had 4 points (1-1 shooting, 2-5 from the line) 4 rebounds, 1 steal, and 2 blocks, but he got 3 fouls in those 18 minutes (at least one was a rough call on an attempted shot block, but them's the breaks) and didn't play any more than that.
-Anthony Fields had a tough game statistically too (actually all the freshmen did but we'll get to that) with no points (0-1 shooting) a steal and a turnover in 13 minutes. Having said this (and this will also be a common thread with the freshmen), these stats belie his hustle, particularly on D.
-Chase Fischer had 3 points (1-4 shooting, all 3's), 3 rebounds, 2 assists and no turnovers in 29 minutes. Honestly though, the 3's by Chase were all good looks, and at least one of them was a just plain cruel rim out, but Chase hustled like crazy on D and had at least one near steal.
-Daniel Green had probably his best game yet with 3 rebounds and 2 blocks in only 9 minutes of play. He absolutely still needs work, but this is against a "BCS" team, albeit a mediocre one, and Daniel actually didn't pick up a single foul this time. He probably would've had 3 fouls in those 9 minutes a couple games ago. Progress, y'all, progress!
Honestly, TTU probably wouldn't have been able to even make a run at it without their offensive rebounding or better perimeter shooting from the Deacs (which we know they're capable of). One really encouraging rebounding note: the teams were exactly even! 30 and 30. Also they were even in terms of offensive rebounds, 7 and 7. The part that killed me is that basically all of TTU's offensive rebounds led to easy buckets, and probably 4 of those 7 were on a single possession. I so badly wish I was joking.
Now for some tourney-wide thoughts:
-Travis and C.J. truly are a two-headed monster. They're both producing excellently, and they're both stepping up as leaders more often than not. I feel like Travis is also showing more perimeter game than we saw last year, which is definitely cool. Having said that, I was extremely happy to see Travis get more aggressive inside this game, it was something I've been waiting for.
-Tony Chennault is showing good progress. He needs to work on his ball movement a bit though. He's good scoring and slashing, and is capable of putting up good assist numbers, but sometimes I feel like he needs to look to open men more and try to create just a little bit less.
-Anthony Fields is basically the inverse of Chennault. He's a sick passer and really good on D and with his handles, but he needs to work on becoming a scoring threat a little bit more.
-Carson Desrosiers and Daniel Green are in similar spots: they both need to bulk up. They're both capable of putting up solid stats and making contributions (Carson more offensively and Green more defensively; I feel like Green is more tenacious on the glass whereas Carson has a bit more finesse to him) but they get pushed around and just need to work on strength. It's clear to me they both have the right attitude, actually all the guys seem to, they just need to continue to work.
-I've already talked about Nikita Mescheriakov. He feels like a Jekyll and Hyde player basically, but is capable of making strong contributions, he just needs to be more consistent.
-Chase Fischer is gonna be a good player. He's a scorer, but he doesn't get down when his shots aren't falling and contributes other ways. He's been getting rebounds, assists, and steals basically every game. When his shots start falling more consistently, he's going to be extremely fun to watch.
As a whole, the team continues to prove their youth, inexperience, and conditioning needs, but they also continue to show the right attitude the majority of the time. I want to believe (for multiple reasons) that the ASU game was an anomaly, and that they were both physically and mentally exhausted by the Dayton loss.
The only other problem I really have is this team seems so incapable of going for the throat. I mean you're up 17 in the second half, all the momentum, and you let them get to within 4? Come on guys. I certainly hope they work on that as the season goes on.
Well, there's my TTU recap plus some tourney-wide/season thusfar thoughts. As always, questions/comments/suggestions hugely appreciated. 4-2. Onto the ACC/B10 challenge against Nebraska. Pretty encouraging performance today. Go Deacs.