Wake Forest took a 1 point lead with 2:30 remaining after Mitchell Wilbekin made a deep three, but Syracuse made enough big shots down the stretch to knock of the Demon Deacons, 81-76. Syracuse advanced to 12-9, 4-4 on the season while Wake Forest dropped to 12-8, 3-5. What were some key takeaways?
I don’t usually blame officiating, but the officials made a crucial error in a pivotal moment in Tuesday’s contest. Syracuse likes the employ the strategy of fouling when they are up by three in the closing seconds. This is a fine strategy and one that I personally support. However, they aren’t supposed to be able to have their cake and eat it too. The downside of this strategy is that it’s possible to either commit an intentional foul, or to foul a shooter in the act of shooting. Bryant Crawford was without question fouled by Tyler Lydon in the act of shooting. Crawford made two free throws, and it’s no guarantee that he would have made the third, or even that Syracuse wouldn’t have scored, but that poor call dramatically reduced Wake Forest’s probability. Rant over.
Andrew White was excellent for Syracuse and made the big plays down the stretch. He finished the game with 27 points and had a huge three with 1:23 remaining to put Syracuse up 71-68. Wake responded on a scrambled possession when Dinos Mitoglou knocked down a long two-point jumper to pull the Deacs back within one. Syracuse’s Tyler Lydon, who finished with 15 points, drained a triple from the left side to put the Orange up 4 with 28 seconds remaining, but Bryant Crawford immediately responded to pull the Deacs within one. Lydon then made both of his subsequent free throws. Then the aforementioned controversy happened. Ultimately Wake just didn’t have enough to finish.
Wake was very successful in the first half at grabbing offensive rebounds to get put backs and also limiting Syracuse’s offensive rebounds. The Orange had just 3 offensive rebounds in the first half, but had 7 in the second half. The Orange also got to the foul line more in the second half. Part of that is due to intentional fouls at the end, but they were also in the bonus with 12:40 remaining. The shot 7 more free throws than did Wake Forest and they made them at a 73% clip. Additionally, Cuse did a nice job of dribble penetration, and then Wake Forest did a poor job of helping the helper, which led to layups and dunks for Cuse.
Syracuse was also the better outside shooting team in this game, and Wake was going to have to knock down perimeter shots to be successful. The Deacs made just 7 of 24 three’s (29%), while Cuse made 9-24 (37.5%). If Wake just shoots its average of 39%, then there’s a great chance that they come home victorious. Wake extended the lead to 8 with 10 minutes to go, but Syracuse quickly caught up due to timely threes in that stretch.
John Collins was a monster all night and finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds. At times in the second half Wake struggled to feed him the ball. Syracuse’s length does make it harder to feed the post, but I thought Wake could have done a better job of getting the ball to the high post and then fed Collins, or fed him from the corner. In general I thought that Wake was patient against the zone, which is good, but the ball didn’t reverse very well and Syracuse recovered pretty easily.
Wake’s guards certainly struggled in this one. Keyshawn Woods and Bryant Crawford combined for 19 points on 15 shots and 10 assists, but also had 7 turnovers. I was impressed with Brandon Childress’ play off the bench and he has greatly improved over the past two weeks. He did have two big steals in the first half, but could not convert on the other end. Those are the types of plays that Wake Forest has to capitalize on in order to win these close games against quality opponents.
Wake Forest will host #17 Duke on Saturday at 3 p.m. It’s a great opportunity for Wake to get a resume boosting win. Let’s pack the Joel.