If you watch the highlights on SportsCenter or read the lede in most papers this morning, you'll assume that Wake Forest lost the basketball game yesterday because Codi Miller-McIntyre lost control of the ball in the final seconds and failed to get a shot off. Codi has received a fair amount of criticism for that turnover. Not only is that unfair to him, but that's an overly simplified analysis of the game that was played yesterday. Like most headlines, this one didn't tell the entire story.
Codi had the following to say about the final play, "They did a good job of hedging the ball screen. It made me focus on the man in front of me and it resulted in a turnover. I lost the ball a little bit before [Malcolm Brogdon] got to it and then he knocked it away. If the hedge wasn't there I would've either had a layup or Dinos [Mitoglou] right there with me. It was a tough hedge. I probably should've told my big to take the slip a little bit to open up the driving lane. That's something I need to work on as a guard."
Let's provide some context to the situation Wake Forest was even in to "blow the game." Wake Forest was playing at #2 ranked Virginia, was a 17.5 point underdog according to Vegas sportsbooks, and had approximately a 3% chance to win the game outright according to Ken Pomeroy. The fact that Wake was even in the game was remarkable. After the effort, Wake Forest moved from 114 to 94 in Ken Pomeroy's rankings.
Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning had the most insight of anyone when he stated after the game, "We got what we were looking for [on the last play]. But before that, I looked at the stat sheet and they scored 34 points in the paint and 20 points off of our turnovers. We didn't make our free throws. There will be a lot of people who look to the last minute or so of the ball game, but for me I saw those omissions that if we corrected them it wouldn't have been that close down the stretch. "
When Wake Forest had a 31-24 halftime lead against Virginia, the Deacs had just three turnovers, and those led to five points off turnovers. Virginia capitalized at an excellent rate, but the Deacs had very few empty possessions in the first half. Wake had eight second half turnovers, and Virginia had 15 points off turnovers in the second half. Virginia capitalized at a very similar rate, but Wake just made more mistakes in the second half and as a result had more empty possessions. Credit Virginia and their suffocating defense. The Wahoos have the 2nd best defensive efficiency in the country for a reason.
In the first half Wake Forest outscored Virginia 12-8 in the paint, but in the second half UVA added 26 points in the paint to Wake Forest's four. Wake Forest did an excellent job of getting to the foul line, but made just 12-22 free throws. Despite all this, Wake Forest still had an opportunity to win the game in the final seconds.
The notion that this team folded or collapsed is simply untrue. In fact, the Deacs found themselves down 13 points with 10:42 remaining, but closed the game on a 22-10 run. Much like on Wednesday night against Miami, when Wake found themselves down 68-64 with 3:20 remaining. Wake Forest went on an 8-2 run to close the game.
It's fine to be critical of Codi's turnover on the final play, but it's inaccurate to say that's the reason Wake Forest lost. It's a reason, but so were the free throws, so were the points in the paint, so were the missed field goals, and so were the turnovers. The fact is Codi had 13 points, 8 rebounds 4 assists, 1 unfortunate turnover, and we wouldn't have even been in that game without him.
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