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Three Up, Three Down: Wake Forest vs. Pittsburgh

I'm finally finding it in my heart to do this. A little late, perhaps, but better late than never, and a game like that is certainly worth discussing, for both good reasons and agonizingly bad ones.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Ups

Bryant Crawford: Stat Stuffer. The freshman guard affected pretty much every aspect of the game.  He finished with 20 points (7-14 shooting, 2-8 from deep, 4-7 from the line), 6 boards, 6 assists, and 5 steals.  Admittedly he also had 4 turnovers, but I continue to notice flashes of play from the freshman that make it clear that this team is going to be his going forward.  Codi Miller-McIntyre also had quite the game, so again there was more of a one-two punch than we'd been seeing.  Other than a handful of mind-bogglingly bad decisions, some of which I'll get into specifically, traditional guard play wasn't so much our issue this game.

The Wrath of Crab. Cornelius Hudson had a humdinger of a game, finishing with 22 points (7-13 shooting, 6-10 from deep, 2-4 from the line), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and 2 turnovers.  He was bombing from deep in high pressure situations in a way I haven't seen in quite some time.  Here's the thing about Cornelius, and it's the same problem Bryant has: swagger is good.  Swagger is something I believe the team has needed for a long time now.  Both Crab and BC, however, need to learn to rein it in and channel it in more controlled ways.  Their swagger sometimes leads to hero ball, which ended up costing us this game (not by itself, but as one of many factors).  Still, seeing Cornelius go off like that is a flash of potential that is both encouraging and frustrating.

Almost Winning In Spite Of Ourselves. Despite the negatives that I am about to discuss, we almost won the game.  That's truly remarkable.  There was a mixture of strong defense from the field, offensive composure in high pressure situations, and big plays from a variety of players.  You can call it a moral victory, but the difference is that I'm not saying that it makes this season a success.  What I am saying is that certain aspects of these performances are signs of future potential, which are reasons to be encouraged in the long term.  That. my dear readers, ,is the key difference.

The Downs

Offensive Rebounds. Seriously, if there was one story of this game, it was Pittsburgh's offensive rebounding.  The Panthers racked up 26 offensive rebounds.  No, that is not a typo.  26 offensive rebounds.  Off of those rebounds, the Panthers had 25 points.  25 points.  Even if you posit we never would have gotten a single point off of the possessions we would have had thanks to better rebounding, 25 points in a 101-96 double overtime loss is well beyond significant.

Free Throws. Wake Forest went 16-32 from the line this game, an even (and terrible) 50%.  Again, even if you posit that everything else would remain exactly the same, that's 16 points left at the line in a 5 point game.  Just terrible.  It's good that we got to the line that much, admittedly, but that doesn't matter one bit if we can't actually convert when we get there.

A Handful of TERRIBLE Decisions. I'm not going to put any one player on blast for a variety of reasons, but let's talk about a few.  That CMM turnover on the out-of-bounds with us up one in regulation with the ball (which again will haunt me for years).  Bryant's ensuing heroball three in the tie game instead of driving the ball.  Cornelius Hudson going into business for himself a little too much after drilling a three to start the first overtime.  There were many decisions during this game that were just atrocious, and if any one of them had happened differently, who knows how the game would have turned out?  I'm sensing a pattern here...

The Bottom Line

For me personally, this season is a wash.  Much like late in last year's football season,, the losses have broken me in the immediate, but the important thing is there are signs of hope for the long term.  Our freshmen are ballers.  There are only two seniors on this squad.  Coach Manning seems to be working out some kinks in the rotation.  The deficits in this team will hopefully be shored up by incoming recruits and, in my too early estimation, especially Keyshawn Woods.  These factors, when all combined ,,are why I still believe we are on the right path despite the agony we are all experiencing.

Please, PLEASE beat BC on Sunday, gentlemen.  On to the next.  Go Deacs.