It wasn’t always pretty, but Wake Forest defeated Boston College in the first round of the ACC Tournament, and likely clinched an NCAA Tournament berth as a result. Wake Forest led by just 6 points at halftime, but outscored the Eagles by 8 in the second half en route to a 92-78 victory. Wake Forest improved to 19-12 overall, including 10-9 in ACC play (9-9 regular season), while Boston College finished its season at 9-23, including just 2-17 in league play (2-16 in the regular season), and losers of its final 15 games. What were the key takeaways?
Wake Forest got off to a very hot start, as Austin Arians knocked down his first three three point attempts of the game, and the Deacons took a 15-5 advantage just 3:15 into the game. Boston College was resilient, however, as they trimmed the Wake Forest lead to just 2 multiple times throughout the half. Boston College’s fate certainly changed with 5 minutes remaining in the first half, as Ky Bowman (their best player) went down with a right knee injury. It did not look good, and he could not put any weight on his right leg as he was being helped off the court. I certainly wish him nothing but the best.
The Deacs were able to play a bit better during the closing moments of the half and took a 44-38 lead into halftime. Wake had an uncharacteristically high 9 turnovers in the first half compared to just 2 for Boston College. Wake was able to stay in the game by winning the rebounding battle and also getting to the foul line. Boston College attempted 13 more field goal attempts than Wake Forest did in the first half, which is misleading, because Wake Forest attempted a whopping 23 free throws. Much was made on the television broadcast about John Collins not attempting as many field goals, but he did a great job of passing out of double teams, and also earned trips to the foul line, which do not officially count as field goal attempts.
After Wake Forest had extended its lead to 7, Boston College tied the game up at 53. The Deacs then responded with a 3 by Brandon Childress, and a steal and dunk by Bryant Crawford to take a 58-53 lead and cause Boston College to take a timeout. The Demon Deacons remained strong out of the break. John Collins had a nice post move, and then received an alley-oop from Bryant Crawford on the next possession after a nifty staggered screen from Dinos Mitoglou and Mitchell Wilbekin, respectively. Mitoglou was rewarded on the next possession by catching it at the top of the key and draining the triple to put Wake up 65-54. The Eagles responded with a mini run and were trailing by just 9 with 10:18 to play at the under-12 timeout.
Wake Forest came out strong after that under-12 timeout and never looked back. Collins continued to get to the foul line, as he did a total of 15 times in the game. When Boston College tried to press Wake later in the game, Wake easily broke the press and got easy transition opportunities out of it.
John Collins didn’t get 20 in this one, but he scored 19 points on just 9 field goal attempts and also hauled in 12 rebounds. They simply could not stop him down low without fouling, and the Deacons shot 43 free throws as a result. Bryant Crawford was a bit shaky at times, but overall was very good in this one, as he finished with 20 points and 6 assists, while going 11 for 12 from the charity stripe. Arians and Keyshawn Woods each contributed 17 points. When those 4 are combining for 73 points, Wake is going to be damn hard to beat.
I hope I didn’t bury the lede here too much, but this should solidify Wake Forest’s NCAA Tournament ticket. Even if they lose to Virginia Tech tomorrow, that’s a very respectable loss to a tournament team on a neutral floor. The best part of Wake Forest’s tournament resume was that its “worst” loss was on the road against Syracuse. Losing to Boston College (Ken Pom #160) would have great tarnished that. In my opinion, Wake is now playing to improve its seed, and hopefully avoid the First Four in Dayton.
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons will take on the Virginia Tech Hokies on Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. in the 2nd round of the ACC Tournament. Wake Forest beat VT 89-84 on Saturday afternoon in Blacksburg. The action can be seen on ESPN2 as well as your local ACC Network. We will have full coverage on Blogger So Dear of the game against Virginia Tech, as well as other bubble games throughout the country.