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Three Up, Three Down: Richmond

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Wake Forest led wire-to-wire over a game Richmond squad on Saturday, and while the performance was far from flawless, there was plenty to be encouraged by in the Deacs’ best win on the season.

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

The Ups

Rebounding Domination. The Deacs absolutely crushed on the glass, coming away with a 45-31 rebounding advantage. It’s tough to lose games controlling the backboards that much, and frankly speaking, we should see margins like that against smaller teams with less athleticism. The freakish John Collins led the way with 13 boards, but it really was a balanced effort. Well done, Deacs.

Redemption For Bryant Crawford.. After easily the worst performance of Bryant’s career against Northwestern, the sophomore PG had one heck of a day, flirting with a triple double. In the end, he notched 8 points on an admittedly anemic shooting night (2-6, 0-3 from deep, 4-7 from the line), 10 assists, a surprising 7 rebounds, and 3 steals (including two clutch ones late that led to Wake baskets that essentially iced the game) and only one turnover in 33 minutes. Bryant still hasn’t been shooting from deep like last year, and I’m not wild about the 4-7 from the line, but honestly with a stat sheet stuffing, floor running show like we saw on Saturday, it’s hard for me to find too much fault in Bryant’s showing against the Spiders.

Balanced Scoring. In addition to Crawford’s 8, four Deacs notched double figure performances. Austin Arians pitched in 15, John Collins 16, and Konstantinos Mitoglou and Keyshawn Woods notched 11 apiece. The shooting was far from great (I’ll get to that), but it’s so refreshing to see balanced contributions. Sure, John Collins has effectively emerged as The Man in terms of scoring, but it is not a one-man show.

The Downs

Three Point Woes. The Deacs shot an atrocious 4-24 from deep, good for 16.7%. That is just plain bad. It’s worth noting that they were generally good looks, though, and that performance included 0-3 from the usually electric Keyshawn Woods and 1-4 from the generally dependable Mitchell Wilbekin. Still, maybe the guys need to work on shooting drills or something, because it’s becoming a pattern where Deacs are missing open shots that we know they’re capable of knocking down.

John Collins: Dominant, But Missing. John Collins was limited to 19 minutes, getting 2 quick fouls in the first half and sitting for much of the second after notching his third foul. When he was on the floor he was electric, getting 16 points on 8-12 shooting and the aforementioned 13 rebounds. Still, John needs to stay out of foul trouble, and I don’t necessarily hate Coach Manning sending a message. This is arguably an “up in disguise”, because I was pleasantly surprised by how well the team held the line with the big man on the bench.

Free Throws...Sort Of. It’s pretty great that I can consider 65.6% from the line a down game given how things used to be, but the fact is that we left 11 points at the line. The usually solid John Collins went 0-3 and Crawford, as previously noted, went 4-7. Now, we generally made them down the stretch apart from two Collins misses, which allowed us to rather effectively run down the clock, but between that and overly conservative execution on offense, it got a little closer than it probably should have.

The Bottom Line

Unquestionably the best win of Danny Manning’s tenure in a vacuum and in context, this was an imperfect but strong outing. If the Deacs can play mostly like Saturday with some hotter shooting, I can definitely foresee this squad flirting with an NCAA tournament bid, which would obviously be fantastic. Time will tell if that happens, but for now, the upward trajectory continues, and I am extremely happy about that. Let’s take care of business against Charlotte and keep the ball rolling.

On to the next. Go Deacs.

--SF