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Takeaways from Loss to Clemson

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Wake Forest battled hard but ultimately fell late when it reverted back to bad offensive habits.

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

Editor’s Note: My apologies for being away the past few days. I had some real life stuff come up and not a great contingency plan for covering Wake while I was taking care of it. We should be smooth sailing from here.

Wake Forest dropped to 9-14 (2-9) after a 75-67 loss to Clemson that followed pretty much the same blueprint that we have seen for the Deacs this year. Play hard for 35 minutes only to collapse down the stretch and fail to score when it matters the most.

Overall I thought Wake played a very good game against the No. 20 ranked Clemson Tigers, who, despite not having its best player in Donte Grantham is still a very good team. Clemson currently sits alone at second in the ACC, behind only the 11-0 Virginia Cavaliers.

Sophomore Donovan Mitchell hit a three-pointer to give the Deacs a 64-63 lead with 5:37 left, but the Deacs made just one more field goal, scoring three points the rest of the way to lose by eight.

This has been the same problem that has plagued the Deacs not just this season, but for the past few years. Wake will battle for 35 minutes, put itself in position to win, but then effectively throw away all that work with poor shot selection, hero ball, turnovers, and bad offensive possessions.

Despite losing this game in a painfully similar fashion to other games this season, I thought that there were a lot of promising things to come out of it, particularly the play of Mitchell and freshman Olivier Sarr.

At this point we pretty much know what we are getting from the 1, 2, 3, and 5 positions on a nightly basis, but the power forward (4) spot has been a huge question mark offensively for most of the year.

Grad transfer Terrence Thompson is a good offensive rebounder and defender, but is subpar at shooting the basketball, even close to the rim. Sarr has been hit or miss so far as a freshman, as to be expected, but played what was his best game of the year so far in a 9 point 5 rebound effort on 5 shots.

Mitchell was great in his own right, knocking down three 3’s for 9 points while chipping in 3 rebounds of his own and playing very good defense.

For the rest of the year I would like to see most of the minutes at the 4 go to the development of Mitchell and Sarr since the goals for this year have been all but exhausted at this point.

The guards unfortunately reverted back to their old ways late in the game after a brief respite against Florida State, combining to go 11/30 from the field (including 7/18 from twos, despite a 4/6 effort from Woods), but with a 2:1 (10-5) assist to turnover ratio, which is at least something good.

The the guards were 10/21 in the first 35 minutes before going 1/9 down the stretch.

Bryant Crawford was hot in the first half while Keyshawn Woods turned it on in the second half to keep the Deacs in the game. When it got down to crunch time, Crawford fired up a contested 25+ footer from 3 that was simply unnecessary and eliminated any chance Wake had to pull off the upset.

Here are the results of the offensive possessions following the Mitchell 3 that put the Deacs up one with 5:37 left:

Crawford missed jumper

Childress missed three-point jumper

Woods missed three-point jumper

Crawford missed jumper

Crawford missed jumper

Doral Moore made free throw, Doral Moore missed free throw

Woods missed three-point jumper

Crawford missed three-point jumper

Crawford made jumper

Childress missed jumper

Brown missed three-point jumper

That’s 10 shots, all jump shots from guards, and a whopping 1-10 (10%) in the final 5 minutes. No layups, no close shots, no transition buckets, only one Doral Moore touch, which resulted in a foul and 12 made free throws.

This is the same type of stuff that has happened late in games all year. The offense simply falls apart and the guards wind up dribbling for 25 seconds before shooting a contested three-point shot, or maybe a contested mid-range jumper.

When the offense was working throughout the first 35 minutes the ball was moving everywhere, Moore was getting touches inside, Mitchell and Sarr were big parts of the offense, and the ball didn’t get stuck anywhere.

For whatever reason, when the game is on the line for Wake the ball gets stuck, dribbled too much by guards, and it consistently results in bad shots.

Overall I thought Wake played one of the better games it has all year for most of the game. It simply lost to a better team in Clemson, and were it in a vacuum I would not be too worked up about it. The way that the final 5 minutes ended were frustrating because we have seen it time and time again with no end in sight.

Wake Forest gets back into action again tomorrow night when it heads to Coral Gables to take on the Miami Hurricanes at 7 PM on ESPN2.