Fresh off the gut punch ACC loss to Clemson, Wake recovered at home against Boston College with a strong win, 79-66.
John Collins won the opening tip, and Austin Arians hit a quick open three to give the Deacs an early 3-0 lead. John Collins got involved shortly thereafter with a midrange jumper, and by the under 16:00 timeout, two BC airball threes later, the Deacs had a 13-9 lead. The attention Collins got in the post allowed for some easy buckets from Mitoglou.
Childress and Wilbekin came in for Craword and Mitoglou, and Wake didn’t score for over three minutes until Childress hit a wide open three pointer. After Wake’s early lead, the teams traded leads and baskets, but Wake struggled to get the ball in the paint to John Collins, and trailed at the under 12:00, 17-16.
Collins made his presence felt with a block and a couple rebounds, but the Deacs trailed 10-2 in the paint in scoring and 10-2 in rebounding after the first eight minutes. An out of rhythm three point miss from Wilbekin led to a long rebound and transition three for Boston College who jumped out to an early 22-17 lead.
The first great play of the game for the Deacs was a simple back screen pick and roll leading to an alley-oop for Collins from Crawford. After that, Crawford and Collins really got going. They teamed up for a transition bucket, a halfcourt post-up combo, and another good look to bring Wake back within a point by the under 8:00 timeout, 26-25.
John Collins went to the bench for a few minutes and the Deacs went with a very small lineup for a stretch, with Woods, Wilbekin, Crawford, Arians, and McClinton. McClinton got abused underneath with a backdoor pass, and quickly went to the bench for Doral Moore. Moore used his first touch for a nice turnaround jumper. Arians used a beautiful pump fake runner to bring the Deacs back within one again, but Wilbekin missed another three, Childress traveled, and the Deacs failed to regain the lead by the under 4:00, still trailing 35-33.
Austin Arians showed off some great post moves and footwork to pick up his eighth point and tie the ball game as the half wound down to a minute left. A Woods turnover gave Boston College the ball with a five second difference between game clock and shot clock, and they would hit their final shot and go up 37-35 at half.
Aside from the Boston College assistant/injured player/trainer/style consultant in the mock turtleneck and the announcers talking about laying down underneath the glazing machine at Krispy Kreme, there wasn’t much for Wake fans to be excited about after twenty minutes. Guard play was poor, coaching was uninspired, and the team looked hungover from New Years.
The second half didn’t start much better. John Collins got no paint touches through the first two minutes until he grabbed an offensive rebound and got fouled on the putback. Bryant Crawford picked up two quick fouls, and Austin Arians picked up his third. BC finally hit an open three and stretched their lead to five by the under 16:00 timeout (had they made 33% of their open looks, they would have kept a double digit lead all game). The referees clearly remembered their whistle mandate and called a lot more touch fouls through the first four minutes of the second half.
John Collins took a double team right out of the timeout and passed to a wide open Mitoglou for an easy layup, and Mitoglou picked up his twelfth point on the next play to bring the Deacs back to a point behind.
One of my personal favorite Wake Forest offensive sets starts with Bryant Crawford waving off three straight screens, pointing to nobody in particular to go to a spot, throwing a cross court pass nearly out of bounds to a guarded man in the corner, and trying desperately to get out of the trap from there. Wake is usually good for one of these a game.
After that play at the 13:20 mark, Wake went up 46-45. John Collins went out with an apparent injury as well. Wake stretched the lead to six, their largest of the game, at the under 12:00 timeout, capping off a 12-0 run most of which happened with Collins on the bench.
BC missed a truly staggering number of threes , but Wake also took a 10-0 lead in the paint to start the second half, and a Mitchell Wilbekin three gave Wake a nine point lead. John Collins came back in at 9:26 replacing Dinos after the Greek Deac picked up his third foul. Wake carried a ten point lead through to the under 8:00 timeout.
Every Wake fan’s gripe about Danny Manning inevitably comes back to substitutions and game management. Greg McClinton, when he isn’t picking up loose ball fouls off the ball late in the shot clock, or shying away from any responsibility in the offensive game, takes minutes away from more productive players like Bryant Crawford and Doral Moore.
Between Boston College’s silly mistakes (Popovic picked up a petulant technical), their turnovers, and their awful shooting percentage, Wake started to dominate down the stretch.
By the under 4:00 timeout, the Wake lead shot up to 16. From there, Wake led by no less than 11. Two travels and a questionable blocking foul on Crawford kept the game closer than it needed to be, but the Deacs were up to the task in the end.
My player of the game was Austin Arians. He created for his teammates, hit open shots, and committed few mistakes. He kept Wake in the game when Collins and Crawford weren’t playing well, and his leadership and presence were key to Wake pulling away down the stretch. Wake came out with a lot more energy in the second half, and Boston College was eventually outmatched by Wake’s size and strength.
This will likely be the easiest conference game on Wake’s schedule. As the Deacs get fully into conference play, they’ll need to tighten up the rotations and play their best players more minutes, limit turnovers and open three point looks, and continue to find ways to keep John Collins involved in the offense. The big story to follow will be the health of his knee. Wake Forest will travel to Charlottesville this weekend to take on Virginia on Sunday night.