Well guys, it was touch and go for a while, but in the end, Wake Forest was just too much for the Seahawks to handle. After the Deacs exploded out to an 11 point lead in the first half, UNC-Wilmington (hereafter abbreviated as UNCW) went on a huge scoring run to take a lead in the second half, largely spurred on by the Herculean efforts of Adam Smith. The Deacs composed themselves afterwards, however, and regained the lead, which hovered between 6 and 11 points for the remainder of the game. This game continued to showcase growth in a variety of aspects from a number of Deacon players, and while the game was closer than I would've liked, in the end it was a decidedly positive outing that leaves me cautiously optimistic for the rest of the year and particularly the team's growth in seasons beyond.
Read more after the jump...-Offensively, this game was a little bit rougher than usual for the Deacs. As a team, they shot 45.3% (24-53) and a shocking (for this team anyway) 28.6% from beyond the arc (6-21). However, the sputtering offense was bolstered by a fantastic team outing from the free throw line, 33-43 for an extremely solid 76.7%. Worth noting about this game is the fact that very few of the shots were ill-advised; the Deacs had plenty of good looks and a fair number of the shots didn't miss badly; many of them seemed to be halfway down the basket and cough back up on unfriendly rollouts. Also fantastic news: the Deacs only turned the ball over 9 times! I genuinely cannot recall the last time a Wake team had a single digit turnover number for an entire game. All in all, a shaky offensive outing was helped along tremendously by strong work from the line. Also worth noting that the Deacs had 6 players in double figures (!!!) so it was also a tremendous team effort in terms of getting points on the board.
-Defensively, the game was a mixed bag. The Seahawks shot 44.3%, took 8 more shots than the Deacs, shot 40% from 3, and 74% from the line on 19 attempts. However, take away the absolutely insane day from Adam Smith and the Seahawks would've shot only 38.4%, and 23% from 3. Of course, it's never good when a guy goes off on you for 32 points, but take my word for it: while there were certainly defensive lapses, Smith, who was largely contained in the first half, hit some truly insane shots this game. In the second half, Smith was nigh unguardable; he was simply playing out of his mind on offense. The Deacs also caused 15 turnovers (10 of which were in the first half) including 7 steals, and chipped in 3 blocked shots as a team.
-WE ACTUALLY OUTREBOUNDED SOMEONE. The Deacs outrebounded UNCW by either 1 or 2 depending on where you get your stats from. The Seahawks still got way too many second chances, and they were largely responsible for the run that UNCW made and actually were literally responsible for what seemed like half of their offensive production in the first half, but regardless, we didn't get schooled on the boards like usual, and the team seems to get more tenacious on the glass as a unit with every outing. During the run, UNCW was outrebounding us by as many as 7 before Wake decided to stop screwing around and began dominating the glass, at which point Wake was able to (as it would turn out) put the game away. Rebounding works?! Fancy that!
Now for individual notes:
-Just as with last game, I'm going to start the recaps with an unexpected name. Nikita Mescheriakov was HUGE for us in this game. He had 13 points on 5-12 shooting, only 2-8 from 3, and only 1-4 from the line, but he had 3 rebounds, all offensive, that led to amazing putbacks, 2 assists, and a steal in 26 minutes. Nikita was really the guy who kickstarted our offense, hitting back to back threes early and then using that hot shooting momentum to fake out a defender and get him to bite only to duck right past him and charge down the lane for a truly thunderous dunk that caused the members of the Wake Forest football team in attendance to go absolutely ham. Nikita was unquestionably a spark that helped to ignite the Deacs tonight and for that he deserves the first mention in this recap. Kudos, Nikita, kudos.
-Travis McKie was Mr. Dependable again. 11 points (4-12 shooting, 1-4 from 3, 2-4 from the line [for the record that's the order I'll always go in, just so I can put in the numbers without always having to repeat myself]), 7 rebounds, 2 steals, a block, and a turnover in 31 minutes. Travis had a couple nice offensive rebounds himself, and continued to show variety in his game and increased aggressiveness on the glass.
-C.J. Harris not only had a monstrous game, he was scary efficient in doing it. 23 points (5-7, all from 2, and an insane 13-14 from the line), 2 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals in 38 minutes. The only major flaw in C.J.'s game tonight was that he committed 4 of Wake's 9 TO's, but that's borderline negligible when you consider all of his other contributions. It's good to see C.J. return to practically automatic form at the stripe, and man, when you get to the line 7+ times, you're getting guys in foul trouble and getting to the basket positively at will.
-Tony Chennault also came up huge.for us tonight. In 31 minutes, TC had 15 points (all in the second half; 3-6, 0-1, and a very nice 9-10), 2 rebounds (both offensive) an assist, a steal, and 2 turnovers. The big issue with TC continues to be finishing drives, but he's definitely making progress, as evidenced by the 10 FT attempts (if you're getting fouled, you must be going hard to the hole). 2 of Tony's 3 misses were easy shots, but like I said, TC is progressing both nicely and steadily, so I'm not too frustrated when it comes down to it. Tony was a big part of helping to keep us under control in the later stages when we were trying to steal momentum back from the Seahawks.
-Carson Desrosiers did exactly what we could hope of him. An incredibly efficient double-double with 10 points (3-3 shooting, 4-6 from the line) 11 rebounds, a block and a steal in 28 minutes. Carson also played remarkably clean D, only picking up 1 foul. Carson continues to solidify himself as an incredibly dependable and intelligent finesse big man, and the great news is he's starting to show more determination on the glass.
-Ty Walker played 11 minutes and didn't attempt a shot, but recorded 3 rebounds (2 offensive) and a volleyball-style block during that time.
-Chase Fischer continued his high-energy play. In his 32 minutes, Chase had 14 points (4-13, 3-8, 3-3), 4 rebounds, an assist, and 2 turnovers. One play that really stood out to me was an absolutely huge and 1 on a beautiful cut (thanks in large part to an awesome pass from, as I recall, Daniel Green) at a point where the Deacs were starting to roll. Chase's threes also came at fairly pivotal points in the game as well.
-Speaking of Daniel Green, the big man only played 2 minutes, but boy howdy did he ever make the most of them. In that time, he had 1 point from the line, 2 rebounds, the aforementioned assist, and really played some nice defense during that time as well.
-Anthony Fields played less than a minute and didn't put up any stats during that time. Much as I feel for Ant not getting much time, I can't really find too much flaw in the situation given how well our other guards played tonight.
Now here comes the only really negative aspect of this recap. As the title suggests, the Deacs really showed a lack of killer instinct. Up 11 in the first half, you'd hope that the Deacs could go for the throat, but instead there were 2 free throws before the end of the first, and then back to back turnovers which led to 5 quick points for the ultimately on fire Adam Smith, and UNCW's run was on. When UNCW went up by 4 in the second, I left my seat temporarily to go for a walk around the concourse to clear my head. I guess the important thing is that the Deacs ultimately rallied, and the margin of victory matches that achieved at home by Maryland against the Seahawks to start their season, but really, can we blow somebody out just once this season? Please?
Oh well, we covered the spread, and beggars most certainly can't be choosers. 8-4. Last season's total matched with 2 games still remaining before ACC play starts at home against VT on January 7, and our schedule has almost certainly been tougher, and with the exception of ASU, we've been competitive even in our losses, and the weak aspects of the team (notably rebounding) continue to show improvement. I'll take that any day. From where I sit, you've gotta learn to win ugly before you can win pretty. Keep in mind guys, this UNCW team is WAY better than their record suggests (they lost by only 3 to that Davidson squad that just shocked Kansas @ Kansas) and we handled them at least somewhat comfortably (again, after we took the lead back, UNCW never got closer than 6 and trailed by as many as 11 again) with a strong team effort.
This time last year, we had lost by 10 to Stetson. 11 to VCU, 9 to Winthrop, and 2 to Presbyterian all at home, and 12 at a neutral site to UNCW and 8 @Xavier, and we only beat UNCG by 2 at home. I know direct transitive property isn't necessarily usable, but man oh man, what a better squad we have this year if the season to date is any indication at all.
As always, leave questions/comments/suggestions/feedback/observations below. Comments help me out, guys! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and whatever else to you and yours, stay happy, stay healthy, and as always, Go Deacs. Rollin' Ronin out.