Your Wake Forest Demon Deacons fell at home to UNC tonight, 93-87.
John Collins won the opening tip and immediately took the ball to the basket, but it was Bryant Crawford who got the Deacs on the board with two free throws and off to a 2-0 lead. He followed it up by going strong to the basket giving the Deacs an early 4-0 lead. Collins then gave the Deacs a 6-0 lead off glass as the Tarheels started the game 0 for 3 from the floor with two turnovers. Then off a beautiful back screen and roll, John Collins slammed home and alley-oop, and the Deacs were up 8-0 before UNC answered. By the under 16:00 timeout, the Tarheels stopped settling for jumpshots and crawled back in to the game, 11-6.
After the first timeout Mitchell Wilbekin and Doral Moore came in for the Deacs and UNC switched to a soft full court press. Brandon Childress came in shortly thereafter. Before long, the lead was gone—UNC took the lead 12-11 on the heels of an 8-0 run. Childress committed two turnovers and lost his man defensively during the latter half of the 11-0 run. In a truly strange turn, the referees called a double foul in the paint as two men jockeyed for position, giving Collins a key early foul. Just one possession later he picked up his second foul. At the under 12:00 timeout, the Deacs trailed 15-13.
After the referees reviewed a clear Bryant Crawford three, they awarded the Deacs an extra point over the break, so Wake’s deficit was just one as play resumed. With John Collins out of the game in foul trouble Doral Moore took his minutes in the post and gave high quality minutes off the bench. As the first quarter of the game passed, Wake did a good job keeping the Heels off the offensive glass and did a decent job limiting their turnovers and fast break opportunities as well. Their 2-3 zone gave Carolina some trouble too, but at a Danny Manning timeout with 8:08 remaining, the scoreboard read 22-17, bad guys.
The biggest part of UNC extending their lead was getting to the free throw line. Wake tied the game shortly out of the timeout with a couple nice shots from outside, but UNC continued to dominate inside with Collins on the bench. Bryant Crawford picked up his second foul with 6:41 to go, and Wake’s two best players sat for a combined 13 minutes of the first half. With neither player in the game, UNC quickly stretched their lead to ten. Dinos Mitoglou picked up his second foul prompting the under 4:00 timeout with the UNC lead at 7, 36-29.
UNC stretched their lead to 13 from there and never looked back. John Collins and Dinos Mitoglou actually played with two fouls in the waning minutes of the first half, something Coach Manning has shown a strong reluctance to do. Neither player picked up their third foul, and Dinos contributed with two free throws. As the first half came to a close, Wake trailed UNC 49-34. The half ended emblematically with a wide open layup from a 40 foot pass to Kennedy Meeks underneath.
The Wake Forest fan in me wants to complain about the referees who missed an obvious backcourt violation, called fouls inequitably, and generally had a bad half. But the statistics showed Wake trailing in field goal percentage, three point percentage, free throw shooting, rebounding, steals, and turnovers. The only box score category Wake led in was blocks.
John Collins picked up his third foul eight seconds into the second half; Carolina scored, went up by as much as 19, and I threw my popcorn bowl on the ground. As it turns out, when Bryant Crawford gets to play, he can be a pretty good player. Wake was getting blown out, but he showed off his ability to get to the rim and finish strong. For as good as Crawford was, Austin Arians was poor. His shot selection was poor all game, taking multiple extremely low percentage shots leading to runouts for the Heels.
In one of the the funnier things I’ve seen in college basketball this season, Mitchell Wilbekin blocked Justin Jackson in transition, probably the most redeeming play of the second half. Wake managed to cut the lead to ten, but trailed by 12 at the under 16:00 timeout.
The Deacs tried to crawl back into the game, but Greg McClinton struggled to keep up with players like Justin Jackson on both ends, committing fouls and failing to close out. The UNC bench is arguably stronger than Wake’s starters, and inarguably stronger than Wake’s bench, but Wake was able to cut into the lead down to as low as five. The Deacs did earn the free throw bonus at the 13:36 mark, and by the under 12:00, with the crowd back into the game, the Deacs trailed by just seven, 66-59.
After UNC enjoyed a big free throw advantage in the first half, Wake was helped by the same in the second half. A Brandon Childress layup took the Deacs within 3, and John Collins came back in as the final ten minutes of the game began. A Woods layup brought the Deacs within one, but Carolina settled down from there and grew their lead back up to eight. Watching a Childress play well against Carolina warms the heart. Brandon has struggled for much of his freshman year, making too many mistakes and forcing shots. Tonight he gave quality minutes against great competition when his team needed him most. By the under 8:00 timeout, though, Wake trailed 75-67.
Collins drew the fourth foul on Isaiah Hicks, but couldn’t convert on either free throw attempt, and the lead for Carolina soon grew to nine. Brandon Childress put the Deacs on his back, scoring five quick points, and the Deacs trailed at the under 4:00, 80-77. After the timeout, Childress hit a free throw, and the lead dropped to two. On his next possession, he drew another foul, but only hit one of two from the line. Tempo slowed in the final minutes, and as the minutes ticked down, the rust that came from Collins’s bench time sealed the fate for the Deacs. Wake couldn’t cut the lead down below two in the end—UNC had an answer for every basket. The teams traded baskets and free throws, but ultimately UNC won, 93-87.
Wake fans know too much about moral victories in the past decade. The fight the team showed down the stretch was impressive though. In the end, UNC dominated the boards and had too much talent for the Deacs to overcome. UNC finished with five players in double digits and excellent transition and perimeter play. Brandon Childress finished with a career high 14 points, and showed a willingness and ability to get to the rim and score.