The Demon Deacons got off to a poor start Wednesday night and never quite recovered, falling 83-68 in a conference affair in Chapel Hill. Unfortunately for fans not located in Chapel Hill, the majority of the first half was not on tv due to "technical difficulties" on ESPN. After almost a full half, ESPN finally restored coverage for the viewing audience. Honestly one of the strangest issues I've ever seen on any sports network.
Brice Johnson met all the hype accompanying him following a ridiculous 39 and 23 performance against Florida State a couple weeks ago and contributed a double-double with 27 points and 11 rebounds. Devin Thomas fell one rebound shy of a double double for the Deacs but still finished with 17 points and 9 boards, including a monster slam late in the second half.
UNC jumped out to a quick 15-3 lead early in the first half, leaving Wake behind the 8-ball from the start. Wake cut into the lead a little bit with baskets from Thomas and freshman guard Bryant Crawford, trailing by only six at 28-22 midway through the first period. After trading baskets on a few possessions, UNC used a quick 12-0 run in under two minutes to take a commanding 42-23 lead en route to a 46-30 lead.
Wake made one run in the middle of the second half, behind solid play from freshman John Collins who finished with 9 points and 6 boards off the bench. If Collins can stay out of foul trouble he can be a valuable asset moving forward for the Deacs with a polished inside game and offensive ability. The Deacs ultimately got as close as 16 points with just over 8 minutes left, down 69-53 off a Thomas layup but couldn't stop the Heels on offense.
Both teams got to empty the bench and get some walk-ons into the game and Wake scored the final basket of the game off a thunderous dunk from freshman Doral Moore, who showed flashes of solid play inside in limited minutes. The final score was 83-68 (note: the line was 18 so Wake may have actually "overperformed" #godeacs).
Crawford really stood out at points during the game and scored 18 points on 16 shots, but finished 6-7 from the line. Wake's woes at the free throw line continued in conference play as they were only able to shoot 57.1%. UNC on the other hand went 24-34 (71%) which is actually slightly below their season average of 74.7%. Wake fought hard on the boards and only lost that battle 47-45, permitting UNC to get roughly their average percent of offensive rebounds (even though it felt like a billion at times). Wake went 2-18 from outside and is now 2-43 in their last 45 ACC road games (h/t to WakeJake for that tidbit).
From the portion of the game I saw Wake looked sloppy at times and rough around the edges. This team has a lot of individual talent but struggles to piece it together as a cohesive unit. Devin is really fighting hard inside but he needs some help from guys who are turning it over on a consistent basis and making ill-advised passes. A lot of this is inexperience still since the bulk of our guys are freshman and sophomores, but this is just going to continue to be highlighted as the Deacs go through a ridiculously tough ACC slate.
The schedule stays difficult for Wake who heads to Miami for a Saturday matchup before returning back to Winston to take on Virginia. Both teams are currently ranked. Wake now stands at 10-8 on the season (1-5 in ACC play) and is in desperate need of a win. Tonight's game was tough, but ultimately I thought Wake fought hard once they got down and just weren't able to get the job done. They will keep improving and this team is fun to watch at times, even if they're frustrating at others. Hopefully they can pull off an upset a couple times this season.
If you have questions, comments, or concerns always let us know below. And as always, go Deacs!