The North Carolina State Wolfpack edged out the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 75-72 on Tuesday afternoon in the Verizon Center. Wake did a number of things well in the contest. They outrebounded the Wolfpack, they got to the foul line, they played hard, and they had a very good assist to made field goals ratio. One thing they didn't do well, however, was shoot the three ball well, and that ultimately caused them to be eliminated.
NC State's Maverick Rowan came out of high school known for his three-point shooting ability. Head coach Mark Gottfried clearly has confidence in him, as Rowan has now attempted 232 three-pointers on the season. Yet, he has only made 78 (34%) of them. Against Wake, however, he looked like Steph Curry. He went 6-13 from beyond the arc and finished with 24 points. It didn't help that Wake continued to try and fight through pin down screens instead of going over them. He hit a lot of huge baskets towards the end of the contest, that were too much for Wake to overcome. Why couldn't Wake overcome it? They didn't have the shooters.
Wake Forest went just 8-24 from beyond the arc yesterday, which is actually above the season average of 31.6%, which ranks 300th nationally. Wake's best three point shooter this year was freshman Bryant Crawford, who shot 34.8% from deep. When that is your best three point percentage, it's a problem. Codi Miller-McIntyre shot 32.6% (15/46). Cornelius Hudson shot 26.5% (22-83). Dinos Mitoglou shot 31.8% (42/132). Mitchell Wilbekin shot 34% (50/147), and Rondale Watson shot 30% (9/30). That is a major problem, especially when you consider that the team shoots the 209th highest 3PA/FGA ratio in the country, which means that they shoot more than they should. The team shot 51.6% from inside the arc, which was good for 108th best in the nation. That was an improvement of more than 5 percentage points from last year. But this season, Wake settled for three's far too often, and it cost the team.
Next year's team could look completely different from the perimeter. Wake adds Keyshawn Woods, who shot 46.6% from deep last season (41/88), and that was 14th best in the nation. To be fair to Mitchell Wilbekin, he shot 38.6% as a freshman. Dinos also shot 38.5% as a freshman. Wake loses Cornelius Hudson, who was very trigger happy with his jump shot, and he should not have been. As good as Codi was at penetrating, clearly shooting was not his forte. Wake also adds a trio of freshmen in Brandon Childress, Richard Washington, and Donovan Mitchell, who are known for three point shooting. Wake needs at least one of them to be a consistent threat from deep. There is also the possibility of adding a graduate transfer who has consistent touch from deep.
The perimeter shot is so important in basketball, as it spaces the floor for the point guards, and can also give more room for big men to operate. This is in addition to the obvious tangible benefit of scoring three points instead of two. Again, Wake's offense could look entirely different next season just due to finally having enough reliable shooters on the court.
If Wake Forest is going to make a big jump in Danny Manning's third season at the helm, then it's going to have to come through improved perimeter shooting. It should theoretically be much better than it was this season, and shooting can cover a lot of other deficiencies, but time will tell if good perimeter shooting can become a reality.