The Wake Forest Demon Deacons had significant turnover problems in the first half, but ultimately defeated the UNC Pembroke Braves by a score of 86-64. UNC Pembroke is currently ranked #10 in Division II. Wake Forest senior forward, Devin Thomas was sensational, and finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds. Wake played the game without Codi Miller-McIntyre (injury), Cornelius Hudson (suspension), and Rondale Watson (suspension).
Disclaimer: This entire recap is based off of the stats, and what I heard on the radio.
Devin Thomas got off to a hot start, and got to Deacs out to an early 9-4 lead headed into the under 16 timeout. Manning then briefly went with an interesting lineup that included all three freshmen and two walk-ons. UNCP went on a 12-0 run to take a 14-9 lead, but Greg McClinton fortunately snapped that streak with a jumper. The Deacs were incredibly sloppy after an initial hot start and had 9 turnovers before the 12-minute mark. Devin Thomas continued his hot streak and converted on back-to-back baskets to give Wake a 15-14 lead. Wake had three turnovers over the next four minutes and were tied at 18 at the 8-minute mark.
UNC Pembroke went on a run to go up 31-23, but Wake Forest closed the half on a 9-2 run to trail just 33-32 at the half. Wake Forest had 17 first half turnovers. 17. Those 17 turnovers led to 24 of UNC Pembroke's 33 first-half points. It was not good.
Devin Thomas finished the first half with 14 points, while going 6-7 from the field, and hauled in 9 rebounds. Dinos Mitoglou made good use of his trips to the charity stripe and finished the half with 9 points on just 3 field goal attempts. Wake's lack of depth showed in the first half, and the bench got outscored 14-2. Mitchell Wilbekin and Bryant Crawford were both cold in the first half, and went a combined 0-9 from the field. The only real positives were Wake Forest winning the rebounding battle 26-17, and having 7 blocked shots. I wouldn't have wanted to be in that locker room at halftime.
Wake Forest got their act together towards the beginning part of the first half and went up 41-36 at the under-16 timeout. The Deacs outscored UNC Pembroke 21-7 to start the second half and take a 53-40 lead prior to the under-12 timeout. Trent VanHorn drained a three off an assist from Wilbekin to give the Deacs a 61-44 lead with 8:26 remaining in the second half. The remainder of the half featured flourishes from John Collins, Dinos Mitoglou, and Bryant Crawford. Collins finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds. Dinos had 12 points and 7 rebounds. Crawford had 8 points and 6 assists.
Greg McClinton had a solid performance and finished with 8 points and 8 rebounds. Wilbekin overcame a slow start, and finished with 9 points and 7 assists. Doral Moore chipped in with 4 points, and finished the game with a dunk. Brandon Watts and Quamain Rose each had 12 points for UNC Pembroke.
Wake Forest's length made a clear impact on the defensive end, and finished with 11 blocks. That could be a major strength for Wake this season. They also had 19 assists on 28 made field goals, and out rebounded UNCP 49-34. However, the 25 team turnovers are simply unacceptable.
Overall, Wake Forest was very good on the boards, but the turnovers are critical. I realize that Wake was without Codi Miller-McIntyre and Cornelius Hudson, but they aren't going to be there for the early part of the season. Wake Forest simply has to do a better job of taking care of the ball. Sure, some were from walk-ons, but Wake needed to slow it down at times. Devin Thomas was excellent, and will need to be in the early parts of the season. He has transitioned his body composition, and that improved conditioning will be critical as he will log many minutes.
Wake Forest will officially open their season next Friday night when they host the UMBC Retrievers, who went just 4-26 last season. The action will start at 8 p.m., and can be seen on ESPN3.