Defense. We held the Wolfpack to 35.5% shooting (22-62) and an incredible 13.3% from three (2-15). Combine that with 4 steals and 5 blocks, and well, this was probably the best defense I’ve seen this team play as a unit...probably ever. Just fantastic stuff. I want to give a shoutout to Brandon Childress in particular, who probably plays more consistently tough defense than anybody else on the team and who fearlessly went to war with consensus lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr. for long stretches of the game.
John Collins, Bryant Crawford, and Keyshawn Woods: Probably Better Than You Yesterday. The three of them combined for 22-35 (8-12 from deep). plus 15 combined rebounds and 8 combined assists. So to put it in perspective, Wake’s core three accounted directly for 59 of the 88 points scored by the Deacs yesterday and assisted on 8 more baskets, which, even if you assume none of those assists were worth three points, means they factored in on as many as 65 of Wake Forest’s 88 points.(though they did assist each other in some cases, admittedly). That is just insane production.
Making A Statement. What I loved most about this game is that the team was not screwing around at any point. They were absolutely playing like a squad that knows they still have things to play for, and it was well and truly a team effort. This wasn’t a bunch of guys going out there to make individual mixtapes, this was an outing where an entire group functioned as a single unit with their eyes on one purpose, and they didn’t just win. They TOOK it.
Free Throw Shooting. Wait, What? For once, things at the stripe were less than ideal. As a team, the Deacs shot 11-17, for a shaky 64.7%. Not only that, we had State in a good bit of foul trouble in the first half and didn’t quite force that issue as much as I might have liked.
More Of The Freshmen, Please? We got to see some of Rich Washington, Donovan Mitchell, and Sam Japhet-Mathias, but I would have liked to have seen them come in a bit earlier in such a blowout. That said, I’m really getting the impression that Coach Manning really likes freshmen to sit and watch whenever possible, and then they come in much smarter as sophomores, and I suppose there’s something to be said for that.
What Could Have Been, It says a lot that I’ve honestly only got two Downs for this particular game, but one more vexing thing is that this game proves how good this team can be, and that the Duke collapse was horrendous and the Clemson collapse was inexcusable. Of course, maybe it took those collapses to get here, in which case fine, I’d rather be peaking now, but man it just breaks my heart to think about how they gave up those games.
The Bottom Line
The team was basically Ivan Drago to Mark Gottfried’s Apollo Creed. “If he dies, he dies.” I’m not gonna act like State wasn’t also checked out which helped our cause, it’d be disingenuous not to. That said, though, this game was an unquestionable statement that the Demon Deacons are not in the bottom of the stacked ACC, and they are still playing for a chance at the post season. This coming week, Wake Forest has a chance to avenge both painful collapses from earlier this year, and while I personally expect a split at best, honestly, with the dominance of this game, who knows? Either way, I’m fascinated to find out.
On to the next. Go Deacs.