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Three Up, Three Down: Rutgers

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A game that was probably way too close but still ended happily for Wake Forest, Danny Manning's second true road win of the season was imperfect but certainly a positive indicator of development in this mostly young squad.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

The Ups

Devin Thomas. The senior was once again a linchpin, racking up 23 points (9-16 shooting, 5-9 from the line), 17 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 3 assists.  Admittedly, he had a team high and game high 7 turnovers, but that's hardly a knock given the rest of the performance he put forth.  I really shudder to think where this team would be without the big man.  Devin is playing out of his mind, and I think he's more and more putting forward a campaign that just might get a look at the next level, especially given the increasing movement towards small ball rather than traditional big men.

Delivering When It Counts. Winning on the road in a high pressure situation is a good thing no matter who you're playing.  Not only did the team come back from 12 points down and end up clinching the win, this is the second time they've done just that.  Now, it's upsetting that they didn't build on their own 9 point lead early and run away with it, but I've always said you have to learn to win ugly before you can win pretty, at least in terms of a genuine path of growth.  Blowouts in isolation occur, but when there are games that are too close for comfort that are won with a reasonable amount of regularity, that's the sign of a program on the right path.

Winning At The Line. The Deacs shot a solid 72% from the line on 25 attempts, and that's with an intentional miss by Devin Thomas at the end of the game.  Take out the intentional miss, and the team was 76% from the line.  I like that the team is winning close games, I like that they're getting to the line, and the fact that they're converting at a solid clip is even better.  I remember when free throw shooting used to be one of the banes of this squad's existence, and it's refreshing to see that change.

The Downs

Turnovers. 18 turnovers, most of them either live ball turnovers or on offensive fouls. I realize fouls are getting called tighter on both ends, and that moving screens are apparently a point of  emphasis this year for the officials, but the Deacs need to be aware of that and adjust their play accordingly.  If they do that, things will probably be much better off.

Offensive Drought. The Deacs shot 40% from the field, which is just plain ugly.  Save for a nasty dunk by John Collins that gave Wake the lead back after being on the comeback trail, all of Wake's points on the home stretch were at the line.  Admittedly, so were the points scored by Rutgers, but if we could've hit shots at our more usual clip, we probably could have blown the game open in the first half and not looked back.

Doral Moore's Foul Troubles. I usually refrain from calling out individual players in a negative sense, but let me just start it with this: this situation is a Down specifically BECAUSE Doral is clearly capable of contributing so much to the team.  We've seen glimpses of sky hooks and nice catches on lobs, a nose for rebounding, and an ability to block.  Heck, in this game alone, Doral had 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a steal in only 8 minutes.  The problem was that he also had 3 fouls in those 8 minutes.  If Doral can avoid the fouls and get more minutes, who knows what kind of positive impact it can give the squad?

The Bottom Line

It could've been a lot better, but in all seriousness if you'd told me coming into the season that we'd be 5-2 at this time with the only losses coming to a really good Vanderbilt team and a solid Richmond squad with an absurd shooting night, and all of this without Codi, and most of it without Cornelius Hudson and Rondale Watson, and yet another of those games without Bryant Crawford, I'd have called you nuts and taken it 100 times out of 100.  It was an ugly win, but the fact that we're able to complain about a game that saw us go 2-0 on the road for the first time in years really speaks volumes.  Let's keep the positive momentum going with a win over Arkansas on Friday night, shall we?

On to the next.  Go Deacs.

--SF