Offense. Things cooled off in the second half, but Wake shot 52% from the field as a team, 41% from deep on 22 attempts, and 74% from the line on 23 attempts. That's a good offensive night whatever the competition, and the ball movement in this game was absolutely gorgeous at times. There were fast break dunks, alley-oops, big-to-big passes, extra passes to cutters, kickouts from doubled bigs to open shooters...it was just awesome. There was something for everybody. Flashy plays and fundamentally sound plays were around in equal measure.
Players Finding Ways To Contribute. Bryant Crawford was 0-8 from the field, but was 4-5 from the line, had 4 rebounds, and also 9 assists. Konstantinos Mitoglou had missed a couple shots in a row before finally burying a corner three to put Wake up for good. Doral Moore had 6 points and 4 rebounds in only 9 minutes. It was a team effort in every way.
Getting Stops In High Pressure Situations. Like many times before this season, Wake Forest could and probably should have run away with this game, but like many times before, Wake Forest still managed to hang on down the stretch and come away with a nail-biting victory. Any coach can win in a blowout, as can any team. However, the real mark of a quality coach and a quality team is when adversity doesn't lead to failure. This team, with only one senior currently playing, is 5-0 in games decided by 5 points or less. That's downright impressive.
Bryant Crawford's Shooting. 0/8 is brutal. The only reason I bring it up is because we know he's capable of way better than that, and it's really doubly frustrating because his form is generally good and smooth; most of his misses on jumpers come from being a little too eager and either being slightly flat-footed or shooting a little too strong. Bryant also had 7 turnover, but given that Arkansas's entire defense is predicated on causing turnovers, I'm willing to cut some more slack. Furthermore, Bryant's turnover numbers have been deceptive all year.. He has at least 2-3 per game that are actually incredibly slick passes that his teammates aren't ready for, which is something that will decrease both with more gametime chemistry and with an increased understanding on Bryant's part about when simpler passes might work just as well.
Letting Them Hang Around. When we went up by 14 points, I thought Arkansas might as well start the buses. Our offense was humming, the crowd was absolutely electric, and the Deacs were playing like a team that came back from their extended road trip to both Maui and New Jersey like a squad that was learning game by game and before long would be ready to battle with the entire ACC. Unfortunately, it didn't stay like that, and for yet another time this season, a game that briefly had the makings of a thoroughly enjoyable romp was instead turned into a tense, blow for blow encounter. We've been lucky to avoid a painful loss in a situation like this so far, and in a lot of ways playing and WINNING in high pressure against non-top shelf foes is good, because if you don't, you might pay later (*coughClevelandStatecough*), but still, can we go for the throat for once, please? Thanks guys.
Missed Free Throws At The End. Go 11-11 from the line in the first half, then go 6-12 in the second, with 5 of those misses coming inside of the final three minutes in a close game. Your Demon Deacons, ladies and gentlemen. This was seriously shaping up to be one of the best FT shooting games in years, and then whoops. Really unfortunate.
The Bottom Line
This game shouldn't have been so close. We shouldn't have needed to answer so many runs and rallies by Arkansas. But the fact is that every time we needed an answer, we had one. We're still 6-2 with wins over Indiana and a UCLA squad that just beat the Kentucky Wildcats. We're still doing this without our starting senior point guard (who apparently is expected to return for our next game). The fact that I can sit here and even somewhat complain about a win is an honestly remarkable shift from where things have been the last several years. If Codi Miller-McIntyre returns at even 80% of what we're used to seeing from him, then look out. A pick and roll with Codi and pretty much any of the bigs on this team but especially Devin Thomas or emerging beast John Collins could be extremely difficult to defend. I'm glad CMM is returning against UNC-Greensboro, who should be a fairly easy out. After that it's Coastal Carolina in our last cupcake, then the currently #11 in kenpom Xavier Musketeers, and after that a date with an LSU team with early-season presumptive #1 draft pick Ben Simmons. But don't worry, after that we just have to play the ACC sched-oh, dear.
Buckle up folks. This is going to be crazy, but something tells me it's also going to be fun. On to the next. Go Deacs.