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Three Up, Three Down: Xavier

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A battle the whole way, the 2016 Skip Prosser Classic would likely have done Coach proud, with two teams going blow for blow, play for play,, run for run right down to the wire with neither team ever taking a commanding lead.

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

The Ups

First Half Bryant Crawford. First half Bryant Crawford looked like the best player on the floor. He was scoring, he was assisting, he was playing in the flow of the game. That was the type of play that has people talking about Bryant Crawford as an NBA prospect. He had some really bad plays in the second half, but it’s worth noting that even after that rough patch, he had ice in his veins from the free throw line in pressure situations down the stretch.

John Collins: Double Double to Machine. Big John Collins tallied 12 points and 12 rebounds, including a clutch offensive rebound and putback to give the Deacs life late when almost all seemed lost. Much like with Bryant, there were problems with John’s showing, but the effort cannot be questioned. Good stuff overall from JC.

Playing To The Final Whistle. I can’t recall the last time a Wake team battled so hard from wire to wire on the road against a team as good as Xavier. There were several times when I thought “Well, that’s that.” and while the Deacs never took the lead, they kept it considerably more interesting than they likely would have in years past.

The Downs

Second Half Turnovers. There were awful turnovers in the second. One of them was an inexcusable instance of trying to do too much. A couple of them were lazy passes Some of them were just guys not being strong with the ball. Either way it hurt us badly, and between that and the next Down, more than cost us the game.

Missed Shots Near The Basket. Despite the double double, John Collins was 6-19 from the field. 6-19.. That is brutal. A fair bit of it was really good defense by Xavier, but not only did John go 6-19, he had no free throws the entire game. None. We know John is capable of much better and guys are going to have bad games, but that was painful. Konstantinos Mitoglou, despite being 6’10” and showing improved interior game this season, was 1-7, 0-3 from deep. I do have to sneak in a stealthy Up here though, as Sam Japhet-Mathias went 3-3 and showed flashes of brilliance. It’s obvious he’s raw as all get out, but with some coaching under Danny Manning, I could see him eventually being a terror.

Lack Of Free Throws. So the Deacs went 10-12 from the line. That’s great, actually. What’s not great is that the Deacs were in the bonus with a long time left in the game and hardly forced the issue. You can’t say it was coaching, either, because in one of the “inside the huddle” segments, Coach Manning was almost IMPLORING them to try to get to the line. With bigs like Collins, Moore, Mitoglou, and Japhet-Mathias, and driving guards as good as Bryant Crawford, Brandon Childress, and even Keyshawn Woods, that statistic was baffling. It’s especially bad given that there is not a single really bad free throw shooter on the team this season.

The Bottom Line

I know some people are still really upset and are talking about no moral victories, and I don’t necessarily blame them. What I will say, though, is that you have to be blind to not notice the upward trajectory of this team. We have a killer nucleus of sophomores in Crawford, Collins, and Woods. No one is graduating. Our recruiting has been very good, including a potential game-changer in Chaundee Brown next season. I guess what I’ll say is frustration is 100% valid but I hope everyone can agree that we appear to be in very good hands moving forward. I’m proud of the growth, and I anticipate that it will continue.

On to the next. Go Deacs.

—SF