There once was a game barely won
The leaders shan't lead 'til it's done
The turnovers stank, and freethrows did clank
Good lord, the ATLANTIC SUN?!
So Wake Forest trailed in this game until literally less than half a minute remained. And somehow, some way, we managed to win. I'm gonna give a few facts about this game:
-We won the rebounding battle by five and the offensive rebounding battle by four. Yay.
-We had 14 turnovers. Way too many, but lower than our average, and most of them were in the first half. Also, Mercer had one more turnover than us. Yay.
-We rallied from being down double digits twice, including once inside ten minutes. Yay.
-We drew a mind blowing 28 fouls while only committing a reasonable 15, which led to Wake shooting a seriously astronomical 41 free throws. Yay.
-We continued to see playmaking potential from several Deacs, including freshmen. Yay.
So here's where the problems begin. Of those 41 free throws, we only hit 26. Sure, we hit them when it mattered most I guess, but that's a groan-worthy 63.4%. I genuinely love the way we've been drawing fouls and getting to the line. It's great. It's one of the few things I have no qualms with so far. But for crying out loud, when you get to the line, you NEED TO CONVERT. If we had, it would've been a completely different game. Similarly, we had several of their best players in foul trouble early in the second half. However, it seems to me like because of the nature of our offense, we didn't get inside as much and didn't keep up level of attack. Motion can be great, but isos are not the devil, especially when you have athletes the quality of some of the guys we have, and ESPECIALLY against inferior competition.
I hate to say it, but it felt to me like the team was floundering when they were doing the extremely pass-heavy offense, and started to take over when some members of the squad (most notably Travis McKie) decided "screw it, I guess I'm going to take over." Also, it was infuriating to watch from the standpoint that no less than three or four times we had the Mercer lead down to one possession, at which point Mercer would go on a run of 4-0 or 6-0 and we'd be in a hole again (and truthfully, most of the time, it involved missed free throws). Also, our rotations on defense were frequently atrocious. 47% from three on defense is not okay.
That said, kenpom actually projected us losing this game with high confidence, which in a manner of speaking means we exceeded expectations. The problem is that we exceeded expectations.
A win is a win, but if we don't see improved free throw shooting (something that even our current coach will likely agree is a valid coaching priority) and, more importantly, improved rotations on defense and a more moderate offense that mixes solid half-court principles with looser possessions that allow us to take advantage of raw athleticism, we are going to get absolutely ROLLED. A lot.
I will say, I'm genuinely proud of our guys for finding a way to win. It just saddens me that we've come to a point where we need to dig so deep this early in the season. Go Deacs.