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Northwestern Outlasts Wake Forest, 65-58

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Wake Forest had an ugly performance on Monday night.

NCAA Basketball: ACC/Big Ten Challenge-Wake Forest vs Northwestern Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest played its sloppiest game of the season and fell to Northwestern, 65-58 on Monday night in Evanston. The loss drops Wake Forest to 5-2 on the season, while Northwestern is now 5-2. What stood out in the contest?

FINAL STATS

The Demon Deacons turned the ball over 19 times and shot just 31% from the field against Northwestern and that’s not going to get it done against most teams, let alone a solid Northwestern team on the road. Wake Forest dominated the glass 48 to 37, led mostly by John Collins’ 16 rebounds, and made 15 of 17 free throws, but everything else was ugly. Northwestern made just 23% of threes but won the game because they were patient on offense and only turned it over 10 times.

It was a back-and-forth contest throughout the game, with the largest lead being Wake Forest’s 8-point lead in the first half. The Deacs found themselves up 31-30 at halftime despite a relatively poor performance and John Collins being in foul trouble. Collins only finished with 3 fouls, so one could make the argument with the advantage of hindsight that it was a poor decision to sit him for so long with 2 fouls. The offense got incredibly stagnant, and the 2nd call (which was an atrocious flop) was critical in this game. One thing I wanted to see more of was to get Dinos a few post touches with Collins out. The one time that Wake did he got a layup, and I think this offense can’t go entirely 5-out and needs some interior presence at all times.

Collins was excellent when he was in (12 points, 16 rebounds, 2 blocks), but he cannot get in foul trouble. If he does, then Wake just isn’t deep enough down low. Manning went to Doral Moore some in the first half, but clearly didn’t have the confidence to play him in the second half.

Wake was incredibly sloppy throughout, but was still in it until the end. Keyshawn Woods drained 2 free throws with 3:24 remaining to tie the game at 53, but Northwestern’s Bryant McIntosh, who finished with 23 points, was too much down the stretch. Wake Forest never really even attempted to force him to his left hand, and he torched Wake as a result. Bryant Crawford had a bad turnover on a lob attempt for John Collins, and then John Collins and Dinos Mitoglou were called for a travel when they both fought for a defensive rebound. That was unfortunate because both were giving great effort.

Keyshawn Woods hit a 3 with 30 seconds remaining to cut the Northwestern lead to 3 at 61-58, but then Northwestern easily broke the pressure of the Wake Forest press to get a layup with 22 seconds remaining. The rest was academic.

That was the worst game that I can recall Bryant Crawford playing. He entered the game with 38 assists on the year to just 8 turnovers, but had 4 assists and 9 turnovers against Northwestern. He was also just 3 of 12 from the field, including 0 for 4 from beyond the arc. Many of his turnovers were unforced and were simply careless. He’s so talented, but his turnovers were infuriating to watch in this game.

I thought Wake’s situational execution was really poor. At the end of the first half and about 45 seconds remaining, instead of calling the “use it or lose it” timeout to discuss going 2-for-1, we take it up slowly only to jack up a long two and miss. In the final minutes of the game the shots were rushed and there was little ball movement. I also have to wonder why Wake did not call a timeout down 6 with 50 seconds remaining to put Austin Arians back in the game. His absence was notable and I believe he would have helped. Also, that press at the end was unacceptable. I understand not wanting to foul solid free throw shooters, but under no circumstances can you get beat over the top for a dunk in that situation.

Northwestern will host DePaul on Saturday, while Wake Forest will play at Richmond. That is now a huge game for the Deacs.