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Three Up, Three Down: NC State

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It's my birthday tomorrow, and I scarcely could have asked for a better early gift than the Deacs finally getting their first conference win. As usual, there's plenty to discuss, especially in such a back and forth game, so let's get down to business, shall we?

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Ups

The First Four Minutes Of The Second Half. That was probably some of the best basketball we've seen from the Deacs all year.  After a sluggish first half by both teams (I'm being generous there, but what can I say, I'm feeling charitable), Wake Forest absolutely exploded out of the locker room, going on a 13-0 run to take their largest lead of the night in no time flat.  The best part was that it was a team effort in every sense.  It was really great stuff.

Bryant Bounces Back. Bryant Crawford had a killer game, with 17 points (5-14 shooting, 3-7 from three, 4-4 from the line in crunch time), but perhaps more importantly 6 assists without a single turnover.  Add in 2 rebounds and a steal and you've got a stat stuffing outing for a point guard.  Admittedly Bryant's shooting percentages were far from ideal, but he continued 40%+ from deep and handled his business at the line, and I stand by the fact that I can't remember the last time I saw a Wake Forest passer this good.  I got to Winston-Salem the year after Chris Paul left, but I'm pretty comfortable saying that in terms of passing ability, especially on the break, he's probably Bryant's closest Wake Forest analogue, and this is as a freshman.  If Bryant could get better at finishing at the rim (which I believe he will), he'll be absolutely lethal.

Devin Thomas: Beast. Devin finished with 20 points (6-11 from the field, 8-11 from the line), 11 boards, 3 assists, 3 steals, and a single block.  It pains me that Devin and Codi are seniors in the sense that we finally have talent and coaching that can really allow those guys to come into their own.  Devin in particular has been giving teams fits, though, and if he's not All-ACC by the end of the season, I demand a recount.

The Downs

That One State Run. You know the one.  After going up by 15, Wake proceeded to give up a 16-0 run in a few minutes at most.  There were a few things that led to it, but the primary problems were Wake needlessly rushing and choosing to take pretty bad shots.  When you're up 15 in the second half, you don't need to rush.  That doesn't mean you purposely eat shot clock violations or anything, but there's no reason to jack up threes in transition.  To the team's credit, after that run, they took much smarter, inside-out threes with much more effective results.  That's something that I think the team needs to learn with time and further development of chemistry.  The fact that the majority of the team is quite young says a lot.  We'll get there.  I know it's unbelievably frustrating to watch lead after lead evaporate and for the team to not go for the throat, but the fact is we're still pulling out wins.

That First Half. With how poorly State played in the first half, there's absolutely no reason why we shouldn't have been up by about 10 at the half.  I will say this the squad played well in some aspects, like getting good shot attempts, but there were problems with finishing off otherwise good play, both on the offensive end and the defensive end.  It was deeply frustrating, especially since Wake was playing, in my estimation, better team basketball for all 40 minutes, and really couldn't capitalize for the first 20 of those minutes.

Second Half Defense. Wake Forest gave up 54% shooting in the second half, and that's never good in any game.  That was the other part of that 16-0 run, and a big part of the problem was that NC State was able to easily score baskets in transition during that honestly terrible stretch.  That was probably the worst few minutes of hoops this season since the Xavier collapse.  We need to stop doing these things for sustained success.

The Bottom Line

A win's a win.  We're 1-2 in the league, with those two losses being arguably the most brutal two game stretch to start conference play that any team could set themselves up with.  We have at least one current All-ACC player, and more than one likely future All-ACC player, and I still maintain we have a coach who continues to demonstrate not only winning ways right now, but also an eye towards the future that seems to bode well for the foundation that is currently being built.  Wake Forest still has yet to play a complete 40 minutes of basketball, but wins in the conference are extremely hard to come by no matter what team you're playing, and getting a win over an in-state rival is always, always something positive.  Unlike years past, this was not just an isolated victory.  It is another step down a demonstrable path of improvement that is not only building to something, it's building to something pretty darn quickly.  What a win.  Let's build on it and get our first conference road win later this week and have a shot at our first three game conference winning streak in six years.

But let's do it one step at a time.  On to the next.  Go Deacs.

--SF