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John Collins Propels Wake Forest Past Boston College on the Road, 85-80

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John Collins is a bad man.

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Boston College Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest won The Rivalry tonight in Chestnut Hill, 85-80. This was Wake’s first win on the road against BC since 2012. The Deacs bounced back well after their disappointing collapse against Duke at home the previous weekend.

After controlling the opening tip, John Collins scored the opening basket for Wake Forest fresh off last week’s ACC Player of the Week honors. Boston College opened the scoring with two quick, open three pointers. Notably, the first three minutes of the game passed before the first whistle was blown. Wake opened in a 2-3 zone defensively and looked to feed the paint on every possession on the other end. At the first television timeout of the game, Wake led, 12-8.

The rims were loud and tight early, and neither team had much fluidity in their offensive game. Part of that was decent defense; of note for Wake, John Collins grabbed a steal, a deflection, and a jump ball fronting the low post in the early going. Boston College kept the game close early with three early three pointers. Doral Moore spelled Collins early, but couldn’t finish two shots from two feet. In fact, Wake failed to score in the four minutes leading up to the under 12:00 timeout, cutting their lead to 12-11.

Doral Moore got his first points of the game right out of the timeout with a nice and-one turnaround jumper, but failed to convert the free throw. The game opened up a bit after that with some end to end play. John Collins checked back in and beat everyone, including the camera, down the floor for an easy bucket the first time down the floor. Wake jumped quickly up to an eight point lead forcing a timeout.

Wilbekin took a shot out of rhythm and too quickly and then picked up a dumb foul off the ball, but redeemed himself with a steal leading to a Bryant Crawford slam. The dunk capped off a 9-0 run before BC finally scored again. By the under 8:00 timeout, Wake led 23-15 mostly on the back of John Collins’s six points (on 3-3 shooting), four rebounds, two blocks, and a steal.

BC hit two threes out of the timeout, and Wake struggled to score until Austin Arians hit his first three of the game. The Wake lead fell to just four over the course of the next four minutes as BC’s threes started to cut into the Wake lead. One observation I had about Doral Moore: for such a big, seemingly strong player, he frequently gets tied up or loses the ball for not going up strong enough. If he can work on the strength in his hands and get his footwork where it needs to be, he can eventually start to be a more impactful big man in the ACC.

In the final four minutes of the half Wake got John Collins back in the game. Wake led 36-33 at half, and Collins left a big impression on me in waning moments of the half. He affects the basketball game like few players in recent Wake Forest memory. There’s a reason he leads the conference in Player Efficiency Rating. Not only does he score and rebound, he has an impact all over the floor, even when he isn’t attacking the basket. Bryant Crawford also played well in the first half for the Demon Deacons.

Boston College tied the score three minutes into the second half by getting stops and easy baskets. Wake failed to get John Collins a paint touch in the first four minutes of the second half though Austin Arians took four shots. BC took their first lead since the early going by the under 16:00 mark, 44-42.

Wake failed to get back on track the next four minutes after an early turnover from Bryant Crawford. John Collins earned his double double with another rebound and inside bucket in just his 12th minute of game action. BC drew their largest lead of the game off a banked rainbow three from Nick Popovic, and then stretched it to eight. Just before the under 12:00 timeout, Doral Moore picked up a foul 30 feet from the basket putting Boston College in the bonus. Their lead at the 10:56 mark was 58-52.

Wake’s 2-3 zone and man-to-man defenses gave up back to back easy slams inside, followed by a blocking foul on John Collins. Just after Wake pulled within three points, Boston College stretched it right back to seven. Little Wake was doing worked while John Collins was kept out of the paint. By the under 8:00, Wake pulled the game back to 64-60.

John Collins hit two free throws out of the timeout to pull the Deacs back within two. He hit two more shortly thereafter to tie the game, picking up his fifteenth and sixteenth points. Wake took the lead back on a Collins layup capping off a 9-0 run before the final TV timeout. He scored his 20th point, his fifth such performance in a row, on the following possession. By the 4:00 timeout, Wake led 71-66. They would not relinquish the lead from there.

This game was not the prettiest of the season for our Demon Deacons. There was a time I was nearly ready to turn it off and hope my bosses at Blogger So Dear would understand an unfinished review. But unlike the previous regime, unlike previous rosters, this team did not quit. They came back from an eight point deficit and pulled away and won. Oh, and John Collins finished the game with 26 points (9-14 FG, 8-10 FT), 16 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal, and just 1 personal foul.

Wake next plays Georgia Tech at home on Saturday, another must-win game if Wake wants to keep their NCAA tournament bubble dream alive.