CJ Harrris goes to the rim - Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons hope to shake off post-exam rust quickly, in order to right the ship before conference play begins in earnest.
The Wake Forest men's basketball team welcomes the Furman Paladins from Greenville, S.C. tonight for a 7 p.m. ET tip-off at Joel Coliseum. The Paladins sport a 3-6 record coming into tonight's contest, as their young team (4 freshmen, 7 sophomores) continues to experience growing pains. The Deacons are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Big East (?) foe Seton Hall, where a second half collapse doomed the youthful Deacons.
Furman is led by twin brothers Colin and Charlie Reddick, who combine to average 20 points a game. Colin, a senior, is a 6'9 post player averaging close to 7 rebounds a game. Charlie Reddick, a junior, is a wiry 6'5 guard who is a serious perimeter threat. The younger Reddick shares his brother's rebounding prowess, averaging 5.4 rebounds per game. The Paladin offense is further augmented by Larry Wideman, a 6'4 guard who is shooting over 40 percent from the three-point line.
Defensively, Furman is allowing opponents to shoot 45% from the field and just under 40 percent from beyond the arc. They average 4 blocks a game, which is not surprising for their length, and despite their losing record are only allowing 68 points per game.
Wake Forest is led by senior guard C.J. Harris and junior forward Travis McKie, each averaging just over 13 points per game. Sophomore Chase Fischer has come on strong in recent weeks and is shooting 48 percent from the three-point line. Rebounding is a huge concern at present for the Deacs, as Travis McKie is the only player in the rotation distinguishing himself on the boards (8 per game).
On the defensive side of the ball Wake Forest has improved its perimeter defense, holding opponents to 32 percent from distance. Overall, the Deacs are allowing 70 points per game on 44 percent shooting from the floor. Additionally, Wake Forest defenders are creating 7 steals and swatting 5 opponent shots per game.
Success for either team tonight will largely depend on the ability of each to possess the ball. The Paladins enter tonight's game averaging 16 turnovers per contest, with the Deacons not much better at 15. It's no secret that both Harris and McKie are going to have to shoulder most of the offensive load until the vaunted Baby Deacs can get into rhythm with the grind of the season.
Point guard Codi Miller-McIntyre will be called on to temper the turnovers tonight and get the ball to his scorers. There is a strong likelihood that their guests from Greenville will attempt to "ugly up" the game and see how the Deacons respond. If this is the case, I anticipate multiple trips to the charity stripe for the Deacons, where they will have to shoot better than their current 67 percent.
This is clearly a winnable game for the Demon Deacons, but it is far from "cupcake" territory. The Paladins are well coached by Jeff Jackson, who is now in his 7th season in Greenville. The Furman stat sheet shows a team commitment to rebounding, while Wake Forest's does not -- yet. Limiting turnovers and winning the rebounding battle will be the keys to a Wake Forest victory tonight in Winston-Salem.