The Wake Forest Demon Deacons took a tough first round loss to St. Josephs in the Myrtle Beach Invitational, but managed to win its final two games of the tournament to finish with a successful 2-1 record following a 69-63 win over the Valparaiso Crusaders.
Head coach Danny Manning was content to leave Valpo big man Derrik Smits in single coverage down low to make sure the three-point line was well guarded, and while that led to a career morning for Smits, the three-ball threat was roughly non-existent in the second half. This was a very good coaching move in my opinion by Manning and the staff.
Smits finished with 23 points on 16 shots for Valparaiso. Overall the Crusaders shot just 4-18 from behind the arc. Coming into the game they were 40th in the nation in 3-point attempts vs. field goal attempts, so limiting the amount of shots from three really helped the cause for Wake.
The freshmen for the Deacs were fantastic in the first half, combining for 25 of the 33 points in the first 20 minutes. Jaylen Hoard, Isaiah Mucius, and Sharone Wright Jr. all got into double figures, and showed really solid all-around games to elevate the play of Wake Forest overall.
Hoard led the Deacs in points for the fourth straight game, finishing with 16 points and 10 rebounds in the victory. This is Hoard’s second double-double as a Demon Deacon.
Mucius and Wright went for 13 points and 12 points respectively,
A ridiculous Flagrant One foul to end the first half allowed the Crusaders to grab four points in the final second to cut a seven point lead to three at 33-30 at the break.
When the freshmen went a bit cold in the second half it was the grad transfers in Torry Johnson and Ikenna Smart who hit some timely baskets and provided strong play on both sides of the court to keep it going.
Junior Brandon Childress continued his hot start, and while he had a higher number of turnovers today it was still a good all-around effort to lead the team to the victory. He finished with 12 points, 5 assists, and 4 turnovers on the day.
The Deacs took care of business on the rebounds, especially on the offensive side of things, allowing for a lot of second chance efforts and easy baskets when it needed them. The final count there was 37-29 in favor of Wake Forest.
Overall defense was much better today from the Deacs, as the staff employed a good bit of zone in the first half to help combat the pick-and-roll woes it has experienced in the first three games of the year.
This team has a lot of talent and athleticism and I expect it to get better as the year moves along, but defense must continue to improve the Deacs are going to be even an average team in the ACC.
After the loss to the Hawks on Thursday this was really best case scenario and will give the staff a lot of tape to look at heading into the next game against Houston Baptist on Friday.
The energy and enthusiasm is there on both sides of the ball and it is refreshing to see guys who want to work hard and get after it for 40 minutes.
Wake will now rest for a few days and enjoy a Turkey Day before the game on Friday night.