Danny Manning's opener as a Demon Deacon head coach was a success. Despite committing 24 turnovers and having their lead cut as close as two points midway through the second half, Wake Forest was able to hold on behind a solid effort by juniors Codi Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas to move to 1-0 on the season. Thomas led the Wake Forest offensive effort with 25 points and 13 rebounds including going 11-19 at the free throw line. CMM contributed 8 points and 8 rebounds of his own, showing an ability to get down low and secure the rebound on both ends of the floor.
In addition to the effort from the two juniors expected to carry the bulk of the load for the 2014 version of the Demon Deacons, newcomer Dinos Mitoglou put up 17 points and 8 rebounds while looking incredibly comfortable to be playing college basketball as a true freshman from Greece. While showing a relaxed composure when he maintained the basketball around the perimeter, Mitoglou also had a knack for finding the ball down low off the glass and will be a welcome fit to a team who is certain to need guys to hunt down those loose balls. Similarly, freshman Cornelius Hudson put up seven points and snagged six boards of his own while Madison Jones had an impressive night at the point scoring nine points and and six assists to go around with four rebounds and help round out the Wake Forest attack.
Wake played with high defensive intensity throughout the game, showing signs of a press during both halves and settling into some half court pressure from man-to-man sets. Despite solid play, Wake was torched by Asheville sophomore Andrew Rowsey who scored 26 points and singlehandedly kept the Bulldogs in the game for a broad stretch in the middle of the game. The Wake defense was forced to locate Rowsey and keep pressure on him at all times, enabling other Asheville players to get open looks as they moved through their offense.
A slim 49-47 lead for Wake evolved into a 68-57 Wake lead at the four minute mark, spearheaded by junior Devin Thomas' effort and scoring ability. With no Asheville players able to physically match up with the 6'9" bulky junior, Thomas showed off impressive footwork down low and exhibited a comfort with more finesse play including a pretty dropstep early in the second half for an easy bucket. Perhaps the best play of the night for Thomas occurred not under the basket with the ball in his hand, but instead prowling for a loose ball on a long jumper, hitting the floor, and having the basketball IQ to locate fellow teammate Darius Leonard in the paint for an easy two point field goal. Leonard finished the game with six points and three rebounds.
Despite the looks of a team who was indeed playing in their season opener, Wake began to hit a stride around the halfway point of the second half and finished strong. After turning it over 20 times with eleven minutes left in the game the Demon Deacon offense committed only 4 turnovers the rest of the game enabling them to stretch the game out a bit. Asheville put on one final run in the final four minutes, cutting the lead to 74-69, before Wake finally put the Bulldogs away by the final score of 80-69. Manning is the first Wake Forest head basketball coach to win their debut since Dino Gaudio in 2007.
The Demon Deacon basketball team returns to action on Monday night in their first road game down in New Orleans against the Tulane Green Wave. Wake beat the Green Wave last year by a 72-57 score in Winston-Salem. That game tips off at 7 P.M. and will be aired on ESPN3.