The Wake Forest Demon Deacons found themselves down 7 points with just 2 minutes remaining, but clawed back to being within 3 points with 17 seconds remaining. This came after Wake Forest finally double teamed Cat Barber on an inbounds play, and forced NC State to pass to someone who wasn't an 87% free throw shooter. The ball landed in the hands of Caleb Martin, who is just a 67% free throw shooter. The percentages came through, and he made just one of two to keep the Deacs within one possession. As Wake fans know by now, the final possession was a disaster.
I acknowledge that Wake Forest did not have a timeout to use. However, one was called just prior to Caleb Martin's free throw attempts. Let's take a look at what happened on this play.
The initial option on this play appears to be to hit Mitchell Wilbekin coming off a screen set by Devin Thomas. It's puzzling to me why we initiated this set from the right side rather than the middle. I will also say that Devin Thomas set a truly horrific screen. It was careless, sloppy, and at a terrible angle. Secondly, Mitch has to do a better job of using whatever screen he does get. He went so high above Devin's screen that Maverick Rowan was easily able to get through the screen, and that forced Mitch to hand it back to Bryant Crawford. Rule #1 of using a screen is to brush shoulders with the player setting the screen. This ensures that defender will either have to call for a switch, or will run into the player setting the screen. Had Mitch brushed shoulders, he would have gotten a very clean look, because Abdul-Malik Abu was nowhere close to the ball.
On the left side of the court (in the initial action) we see that Codi Miller-McIntyre is going to set some sort of a back screen that will enable Dinos Mitoglou to flare to the corner. Codi quickly, and rightfully, abandons this action when he sees that Crawford has to retrieve the ball back from Mitch. I like this side action with Codi and Dinos, but this is a problem I have with the play starting from the right-hand side of the court. Dinos is so far spaced out, that it would require an unbelievable pass to be able to get the ball across the court and over defenders into Dinos' hands. If the set initiates from the middle of the court, this is suddenly a much more viable option.
The situation that Wake found themselves in (down three, with the ball, and one final possession) is such a classic example of late game basketball. The design of the set has to be better, and the execution has to be better. When I mean execution, I don't mean making the shots. I'm a big believer in "writing the story while the ball is in the air." When the ball was in the air on Tuesday, we all knew it wasn't a great look. I don't blame him for taking that shot. I blame the fact that that's what shot he had to take.
The hustle and the rebounding on the play were outstanding following Crawford's attempt, but the initial design left a lot to be desired. Am I being too critical? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.