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Playbook: Wake Forest vs Syracuse

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A look at how the Deacs successfully attacked the 2-3 zone

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a new year, and that means it’s time to get back to breaking down some Wake Forest basketball plays. The Deacs started the new year off right, winning their ACC home opener over the Syracuse Orange by a score of 73-67. One reason the Deacs were able to come away with the win was due to their ability to successfully attack that pesky Syracuse 2-3 zone. Wake finished the game with 20 assists on 25 made baskets, shooting 44% from the floor and 47% from 3. Let’s take a quick look at the 2 ways the Deacs were able to beat the zone and pick up the W.

The first way Wake was able to attack the 2-3 zone was by getting the ball into the middle of the zone around the high post and free throw line area. This was obviously a focus in the game plan from Danny Manning, as the Deacs went to it right from the opening tip with Terrence Thompson.


This is a play the Deacs would go to a plethora of times throughout the game, with several different players.

When a team consistently hits that midrange shot from the middle of the zone, the defense is forced adjust. When Crawford gets the ball in the same spot after a couple of makes, Bourama Sidibe quickly steps up to contest the shot (before his teammates can collapse into the lane) and leaves Doral Moore open down low for the easy alley oop.

Sticking Crawford at the free throw line was a great move by Manning as it gave the Deacs a guy who could shoot, drive, and pass in the middle of the zone.

Crawford finished the game with a team high 19 points and 5 assists.

The second way the Deacs successfully attacked the Orange’s 2-3 zone was driving to the gaps in the zone and passing the ball out when the defense collapsed. This is where Mitchell Wilbekin, who finished the game with a career high 8 assists, really shined.

A lot of times you will see players drive through a gap in the zone, and then rather than kicking it out when the defense collapses, they’ll just keep driving until they are surrounded by 3 or 4 defenders with nowhere to go with the ball. Wilbekin did a fantastic job against the Orange of driving into the defense just enough to cause them to shift over and then dumping the ball off to the open man before he was swallowed up by the zone.

These drive and kick plays helped the Deacs shoot 9-19 from beyond the arc against the Orange. They also help set up this crucial, late game basket from Brandon Childress.

When Childress drives here late in the game, rather than collapsing in on him, the Orange defenders stay on the wing to cover the 3-point shooters. That helps Childress penetrate into the lane and make a pretty tough floater to put the Deacs up 2 scores and essentially win the game.

Wake Forest did a great job coming up with, and executing, a successful game plan to pick up their first win in the ACC and their ever win against they Syracuse Orange.