What do you get when you add up a 21-3 lead after 7 minutes, a roster with a five star, two four stars, a handful of three stars, and a team coached by a former two-time collegiate All-American at Kansas taking on the 324th “best” team in Ken Pomeroy?
Well tonight you got a 71-64 Wake Forest victory over Western Carolina in a game that should never have been within 15 points after the first five minutes. The final score was also not as close as the game really was, as the Catamounts self-destructed in the final minute after holding a one point lead.
In what would optimistically be described as a lackluster, disinterested effort from Wake Forest after the first seven minutes, the Deacs should be thanking its lucky stars that it was playing a bad basketball team. Even then, it took horrendous shooting from the free throw line from the Catamounts to keep the Deacs in the lead in the second half.
The Deacs move to 4-2 on the season with the victory, while the Catamounts fall to 2-6, with six more road games ahead of it before it gets back to Cullowhee for a home game.
After a fantastic start on both sides of the ball for Wake Forest that saw a swarming defense and somewhat intelligent play, the wheels came off completely and the Deacs reverted back to the same poorly disciplined team that it has been much of the past five years and allowed the Catamounts back into the game.
Despite not having a rotation player over 6-foot-7 inches, the Mark Prosser led Catamounts inexplicably held a 15-14 rebounding advantage at the half and trailed by just two by a score of 33-31 after an unlikely banked in three from a couple of feet inside mid-court by sophomore guard Matt Halvorsen.
The Catamounts would inexplicably finish with a 37-35 advantage on the boards and the Halvorsen finished with 19 points and 5 rebounds. Carlos Dotson was able to pull down 16 rebounds against a much taller frontcourt of Wake Forest and also had 14 points for the impressive double-double.
After Wake Forest went up 59-50 at around the eight minute mark to seemingly grab the game by the horns, Western Carolina crawled back to a three point deficit at 59-56 following back-to-back threes with under five minutes left in the game.
A flagrant foul called on Torry Johnson following a “hook-and-hold” at the 3:18 mark with the Deacs up 61-60 brought some nervous moments for Wake fans, as the Catamounts pulled within one point after a free throw and ANOTHER offensive rebound and putback by Dotson.
After Dotson once again made one out of two free throws on the following possession, Chill tried once again to take over the game when he was fouled shooting three, but the 90% shooter was only able to make one out of three to give the Deacs a 62-61 lead.
Halvorsen then drew a foul on Sunday Okeke 20 feet from the basket to get to the line, where he would make both to give the Catamounts an unexpected 63-62 lead with under a minute left.
Out of the ensuing timeout Hoard then did what most people know he can do when he took it strong to the hoop and put the Deacs back up 64-63 on a layup and a foul. He did miss the free throw, but it allowed Isaiah Mucius to grab the offensive rebound and lay the ball back in to push the lead to 66-63.
Following an exchange of free throws by Western and Wake’s Sunday Okeke to keep the lead at three at 67-64, Hoard tied up a Western player on the in-bounds play, and knocked down two more free throws to push the lead to 69-64. Mucius would then steal the next in-bounds pass to seal the deal.
Full credit to the Deacs for pulling it out late when the going got tough, but it should have never been in that position to even test its late game fortitude in this one.
Overall, Mark Prosser acquitted himself very well in Winston-Salem in what was the first ever matchup between the in-state rivals. His father, the late and great Skip Prosser, coached Wake Forest from 2001 until his untimely death in the summer of 2007.
Before the game Mark received a framed replica of the banner of his father that hangs in the rafters of the Joel.
His dad is no doubt extremely proud of him, not just tonight, but every single night, for what he is doing in life in coaching young men.
One of the bright spots for the Deacs was the play of sophomore Chaundee Brown, who showed off why he was a highly touted recruit coming into 2017. He was aggressive in getting to the rim, had a smooth stroke, and finished with 14 points.
Junior guard Brandon Childress also continued his solid play early on in the season as well, pushing back against Western twice in the second half when it took brief leads by penetrating the D and scoring easy buckets at the rim. He finished with a game-high 20 points.
Freshman Jaylen Hoard scored in double-figures for the sixth straight game to start his collegiate career, finishing with 17 points and 3 boards.
This frustration is likely what most games are going to be like for Wake fans moving forward this season, as I saw nothing tonight that indicated anything at all was learned from the loss to Houston Baptist four days ago.
Erratic, disjointed, and inconsistent play on both sides of the ball seems to be the M.O. of this coaching staff throughout its time in Winston.
There is more than enough talent on this roster to blow out these lowly teams and compete in spurts with a handful of ACC teams, but the coaching just isn’t anywhere near where it needs to be.
Defensively the Deacs continue to be lost on rotations, pick-and-rolls, inexplicable double-teams on undersized post players, and a philosophy that simply makes no sense, if and when it can be identified at all.
Wake heads to Richmond to take on the Spiders on Saturday night, while Western Carolina will head to Furman to take on the unexpectedly undefeated Paladins, who have already upset Villanova this season.