Wake Forest was in this one for the entire game, but just couldn't quite get over the hump. It was still nice to see the team continue to fight after falling down late in the second half. An unfortunate timeout call resulted in a technical foul and ended the hopes of the comeback, but I still have a lot of confidence in this team.
Wake Forest started this game with some hot shooting from Darius Leonard, who was 4-4 from beyond the 3-pt line in the first 4 minutes of the game. Leonard was able to find the open spot on the zone for the first couple and get wide open 3's. After he hit the first 2, he had the confidence to shoot even with a hand in his face. Unfortunately for the Deacs, he did not make another 3 for the rest of the night.
One of the big problems Wake Forest had in this game was finding good shots against Iona's zone defense. One of the reasons for this is that the Deacs don't have many shooters on the roster. Iona was able to stay close to the shooters and leave CMM and Madison Jones open from the perimeter without any consequences.
Watch how Iona guards Madison Jones on this possession. They clearly don't respect his outside shot and they leave him wide open for essentially the entire possession in order to stay on the Wilbekin and Darius Leonard.
In the second half, Iona got lackadaisical on defense and Mitchell Wilbekin was able to step into a couple 3's. It was really nice to seem him step up with confidence and let the ball fly.
On defense, the Deacs struggled to stop the 3-point shooting of Iona. The Gaels generally play 5 guys who could shoot the ball from the perimeter. They love to spread the court and pull the other teams bigs outside and force them to play one-on-one. Iona hurt the Deacs by kicking out to the open man when the help defense came on the drive, and ended the game with 18 assists and 13 3-pointers.
Here, Devin is pulled out from underneath the basket to defend, CMM gets caught watching the play, and Iona ends up with an easy backdoor cut for a layup.
On the break, Iona is able to find draw the defense in and then kicks the ball out to Isiah Willams for the 3. Greg McClinton is a step late on the contest, and Williams knocks down the open 3. In this sequence, McClinton had to defend two players at once, which is a tall task.
Here, Dinos Mitoglou is forced to defend on the perimeter, something that is very difficult for a 6-10 power forward. He gets beat, and when Devin Thomas comes to cut off the drive, Madison Jones does not help the helper, and Williams finds the open man in the corner, and Ryden Hynes hits the wide open 3.
Another problem for the Deacs on defense is that for a stretch of the second half, they were just getting beat down the court. After a made basket, Iona just outlets the ball quickly down the court and Kelvin Amayo gets an easy dunk ahead of all 5 of the Deacs. Whatever the reason for this was, its not something that is conducive to winning basketball games.
While Wake Forest wasn't great on defense, they were still in this game until the very end. It just seemed like every time Wake Forest made a run and got close to tying the game, someone on Iona hit a run-stopping 3 that quieted the crowd.
The Deacs had the lead cut to 7 here and A.J. English hits a ridiculous 3 with Mitchell Wilbekin right on him. A.J. English had a huge night for the Gaels, ending the game with 27 points.