Devin Thomas: Senior Leader. Devin had undeniable rough patches, including the fact that he only played five minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, but he ended up with 16 points (6-9 shooting, 4-6 from the line) and 7 rebounds, and it's worth noting that late in the game, when Wake had its back against the wall, we got the ball inside to Devin (finally) and he proceeded to initiate the takeover. I would be remiss to not mention Konstantinos Mitoglou, whose hot three point shooting late helped to get LSU out of the zone they had been playing and into a man to man, which greatly benefited Wake Forest.
Ben Simmons Is, In Fact, Guardable. The freshman phenom was undeniably frazzled by the Wake Forest defense, ending up with admittedly 21 points, but 11 of those points came from the line, and he was also forced into 5 turnovers and only had 8 shot attempts all game. I laud the LSU defense being able to guard Devin Thomas how they did, but the Wake Forest defense managed to do the same thing with Ben Simmons. Particular congratulations go out to Codi Miller-McIntyre, who despite a rough offensive showing (1-6 shooting, 0-1 from deep, and three turnovers), had 12 rebounds and 3 steals. I seriously can't remember the last time a Wake Forest point guard had double digit rebounding numbers.
Bryant Crawford Is Going To Be A Monster. The freshman had 19 points on 6-10 shooting, 3-5 from deep, and 4-5 from the line, with 3 each in both assists and turnovers. I cannot get over how high I am on Crawford's performances of late. He can shoot, he can finish, he can pass, he can run a break, and he is at least not a liability on defense, which is a boon for any freshman point guard.
Turnovers. So Many Turnovers. Wake Forest had 18 total turnovers. That would be bad enough by itself, but most of them were on the perimeter against a 2-3 zone. How does that happen? That's just awful, there's no sugar coating it. Speaking of zone...
Get Devin The Dang Ball. I realize we were, for large stretches, playing against a defense fully predicated on trying to minimize a dominant big's impact and encourage outside shooting. But we fell into that gameplan a little too easily, especially with Mitchell Wilbekin and Cornelius Hudson, two potential zone busters, going 2-12 from three during the game. That's just atrocious, and there are other ways of attacking a zone, though they're admittedly a fair bit tougher for most teams.
Giving Up Another Lead. We were up by as many as 11 late in the first, then had given up the lead (albeit not by too much) by early in the second. We righted the ship, so it wasn't a Xavier, and we were on the road so I tend to be a little more forgiving, but this is a pattern, and it is very, very distressing. If we can't figure out how to hold on to leads it is going to be a long ACC slate.
The Bottom Line
9-3. Wins over Indiana, UCLA (both of those on neutral floors), Bucknell, Rutgers, and LSU on the road, and another win against a Power 5 school (Arkansas at home). Our losses are all to probable tourney teams, and we had a shot in two of said three to win late in the game. Vanderbilt was literally the only blowout of this brutal non-conference schedule. With the injuries, suspensions, overall youth of the team, and the quality of competition for the most part, I think that's pretty remarkable, and exceeds any expectations I may have had coming into the season. Bowling shoe ugly wins are still wins, and we've already got three true road wins for the first time since, I believe, 2009.
That being said, we need to polish things up, we need to hope CMM finds his offensive stroke again soon, and it could still be a very brutal ACC season. I'm happy right now, but I still doubt a postseason berth (which I'm still fine with given it's year two of the Manning Era and additionally given just how brutally bad things were when Coach Manning got here). A great win, and hopefully with many more to come, but we'd also better strap in for a potential rough patch.
On to the next. Go Deacs.