At the end of the game with Duke tonight, when it became apparent that we would lose, I hardly felt dissapointment.
For the past couple of hours, I had enjoyed the best 40 minutes of basketball that Wake had played in years. I had felt such a rush at seeing the crowd on their feet, absolutely going crazy for the underdogs. I had jumped, cheered, and fist-pumped from the comfort of my own living room as Wake would tie the game and take the lead a couple of times down the stretch of the game. And when it all was over... I felt good. Really good.
When the Demon Deacons upset number 19 NC State, it was a beautiful thing. It was by far the biggest win of the Bzdelik era, and it felt nice to see fans and players alike have something to get so excited about. However, I couldn't erase from my mind that NC State should have beaten us. I don't mean that in the sense that they should have beaten us because they were the better team, but because they were given multiple solid opportunities to, including two missed free throws and a wide open 3 pointer for Scott Wood at the end of the game. Not to mention the fact that we didn't put up a field goal in the last 4 minutes of the game. The win was great, but winning over such an inconsistent NC State team the way that we did not prove that Wake was a force to worry about on their home court.
I hope nobody minds me putting aside the Georgia Tech game. It was awful, and I felt sick for the rest of the day.
Following a 20 point loss on the road against Georgia Tech, the Deacs had to come home and face number 5 Duke. For some reason I had a good feeling... and that feeling lasted through the entire game. There was quite the turn out, and the tye-dye nation brought back some really great memories with their loud, hostile cheering. We really had a homecourt in this game, and I loved it. It felt so great to see everyone on their feet as the Deacs tried to pull off one of the biggest upsets in their history. ( I hope that I am free to say that, considering we were playing a top 5 team while being ranked in the 100's). Every player played with such a passion in this game, it was hard not to ride on the emotions. Thomas had another great game, and had some help from Tyler Cavanaugh who nailed a 3 pointer in the first half, and had a nice drive in the second half that ended up in a 3 point play. Even Rountree, who got some nice playing time tonight, got in on it with a nice baseline drive that ended in a dunk. Mckie was unfortunately quiet in the second half, but CJ Harris came up with some big plays. Adala Moto wasn't a huge scorer, but found some important points on the free throw line. Madison Jones was our point guard for the majority of the game, and he did a nice job of keeping things under control. CMM seemed to be having trouble making good decisions with the ball, and wasn't a huge factor in the game. I was a bit dissapointed to see that Fischer was a non factor tonight, although that seems to be the norm (unless he is contributing negatively), which I really hate for him. I know he works hard for the team, and I always want to see him find success. However, we did take a nice 3 (I think it may have been the only shot he took), which barely missed, but he was obviously fouled.
The Deacs played really great perimeter defense, limiting the Blue Devils big time from beyond the arc. They did allow a massive game by Mason Plumlee (I'm not sure on his exact number, but it was around a 30 point game), but that seemed to be the trade-off that the coaching staff decided to take to keep Duke's sharpshooters out of the game as much as they could. I thought that Cavanaugh did a nice job of fighting Plumlee in the post when Thomas was not in the game, and was proud of the effort he put up against the bigger, stronger Blue Devil.
Wake forest had a couple of late ties and leads in this game. It is arguable that Wake may have been able to come out with a win had Harris and Thomas not had to sit for good periods of time late in the game due to foul trouble. I thought that there were some pretty poor calls in this one, and I felt especially angry after the 4th foul on Harris. It seemed clearly to be a blocking foul on Curry.
I think it means a lot for this team to have gone 40 minutes without any scoring droughts, and to actually stay very much in the game for the entirety. There was never a moment where the game slipped away from us, we were always fighting. Fighting a top 5 team. I truly believe that in a couple years (if not next year), Wake Forest will be in the top 25. There is too much talent and team-spirit to not have great results.
The losing part aside, this was the strongest I have felt about our ball team in a long time. Obviously we need road wins against Maryland and North Carolina now to stay competitive in the ACC standings, but the fact that the Joel is becoming a tough place to play again is fantastic. I love the effort that these boys put out every night, and it must feel great to have gotten the crowd back in the gym. I hope that the Deacs find some momentum from this game, don't give up, and take it to Maryland on the road. Home court advantage aside, I think that we can beat the Terps. Doing so would be enormous, as (assuming we lose the North Carolina), we would still be 4-6 in the conference, with a chance at moving to 5-6 with a win over FSU at home. Obviously not a big deal in the big picture of the ACC, but that would suggest a competitiveness that Wake has not seen in a long time.
Great effort tonight, Go Deacs!