Wake Forest opened up 2015 playing #5 Louisville at home on Sunday night. This game was originally predicted by some to be an easy win for the Cardinals, but the Joel is never an easy place to play. Wake Forest fought the entire game and even led Louisville late in the game, but ultimately the Deacs came up short.
In the first half, it looked like the Deacs could be in trouble because Louisville, who usually shoots 30% from the 3-point line, came out on fire, hitting on 7 of 14 first half 3-point attempts.
Even Montrezl Harrell, who shot just 25% from beyond the arc headed into Sunday's contest, was 2-3. Thankfully, the Cardinals would end the game without making anymore 3-pointers, finishing the game shooting 7-17. Going back to Harrell, he had a huge first half. He finished the first half with 20 points on 7-10 shooting and 6 rebounds.
Harrell certainly showed why he is one of the best players in the country in the first half. The Deacs did a great job guarding him in the second half, and he would finish the game scoring just 5 more points, for a total of 25 for the game.
Another key to this game was keeping Louisville off the offensive glass. The Deacs were not very successful in this in the first half.
Louisville had 6 offensive rebounds in the first half, and as seen above, several of them led to easy baskets.
Another key to this game was how Wake Forest was going to handle the press. As a team, the Deacs were pretty good. But in the first half they gave up a few easy baskets by turning the ball over right underneath their own goal.
Again, in the second half, the Deacs really improved on the press too. One of the best ways to beat a press is to throw the ball in before the defense can get the press set up.
Here, the Deacs do just that. Immediately after the made Louisville basket, Codi Miller-McIntyre takes off down the court and Devin Thomas hits him with the perfect pass for an easy dunk and the foul.
On offense for Wake Forest, it was the Devin Thomas show. Devin played the best game of his Wake Forest career and dominated the Louisville bigs.
Devin seemed unstoppable in this game. He scored in about every way possible - put backs, jump shots, post ups, and drives. He finished the game with a career high 31 points on 11-14 shooting and added 11 rebounds. When he wasn't scoring, he was contributing in other ways.
Obviously when a guy is having a game like Devin had in this one, the defense is going to take notice. When Devin gets the ball in the post here, the three Louisville defenders collapse. Devin finds Madison Jones who quickly hits Mitchell Wilbekin for the wide open 3. Devin won't get an assist for this in the stat book, but certainly deserves credit for getting Wilbekin the open shot.
Devin even had a great game defensively.
Here the absolute swat by Devin leads to the fast break for Codi. Codi is one of the best guards in the country in the fast break in my opinion, and he easily converts the layup. Another easy basket created by Devin Thomas.
While Wake Forest led this game for a while in the second half, they could never get over the hump and pull ahead by more than a few points. It seemed like everyt ime the Deacs got up by 1, Louisville would come down and hit a tough pull jumper.
Senior guard Chris Jones finished with 22 points on 7-13 shooting and hit a dagger jumper with about 1 minute remaining in the game to seal the win for Louisville. While the Deacs didn't win this one, they showed great fight to the end against a tough opponent. If the Deacs can force opponents to hit these types of difficult shots, then Wake Forest is going to have success in ACC play.