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Playbook: Old Habits Die Hard as Wake Forest Falls to Notre Dame

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Wake loses in South Bend

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest dropped their third straight game in the conference to Notre Dame by a score of 90-80, falling to 9-11 overall and 2-8 in the conference. For the third straight game, the Deacs took a lead into the half and were unable to win, this time due to a 54 point scoring outburst from the Fighting Irish in the 2nd half. In the 3 game losing streak, Wake is outscoring its opponents 113-95 in the 1st half but being outscored 98-131 in the 2nd (including OT). I’ll keep this one short, because—frankly—I’m running out of things to say.

Before I get into the title of the article, the first thing I wanted to look at was this sequence below because I felt it perfectly summed up the game against Notre Dame (and maybe the last several years as well).

Brandon Childress gets the steal, pushes the ball up the floor, and takes an open transition 3. It’s certainly not a bad shot, but it has some added difficulty as it’s a pull up off the dribble from around 24 feet. The Irish rebound the ball and Rex Pflueger (28% from 3 this season) has the chance to take a very similar shot. He decides against it, Notre Dame reverses the ball to the other side of the court, and Prentiss Hubb (36% from 3 this season) gets a wide open 3-pointer.

German Chess Grandmaster Emanuel Lasker once said “when you find a good move, look for a better one.” Notre Dame perfectly embodies that in the play above. They have a good look at a 3, and they turn it into an even better look from 3. The Deacs, on the other hand, have a propensity to taking the first available shot on a possession despite its quality. That is the difference in a team ranked 7th in the nation in assists per game and a team ranked 257th in the nation in assists per game.

Now onto old habits dying hard. For 90% of the game, Wake Forest actually did a really good job of getting the ball into the paint to Olivier Sarr. Sarr had a great game, finishing with 18 points on 7-13 shooting, and is really putting together a solid junior season. Again, it seemed obvious that going to Sarr down low (aka paint touches) was part of the game plan.

Unfortunately, in the last 10% of the game, the Deacs kind of forgot about that and went right back to the old habit of ignoring the post and shooting contested midrange jumpers. This possession with 2 minutes left in the game illustrates the point well. The Deacs were down 7 and needed a basket to have a chance to pull of the comeback.

The first attempt is a Torry Johnson mid range jumper with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. Luckily, Notre Dame loses the ball out of bounds, so the Deacs get another crack at it.

The second attempt is a Brandon Childress step back jump shot, also with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. Again, the ball goes out of bounds, so Wake gets another shot.

The final attempt is a contested 3-pointer with 18 seconds left on the shot clock. The Deacs fail to convert on 3 straight attempts and go on to lose the game by 10 points. John Wooden used to tell his players to “be quick, but don’t hurry.” Towards the end of the game, Wake was definitely in a hurry.

Finally, the Irish scored 54 points in the second half, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t say something about the defense. The Deacs have a tendency to “ball watch” and lose track of their man, which resulted in a lot of open baskets for the Irish in the 2nd half. I’ve talked about this ad nauseam in the past, so I’m just going to rapid fire some examples below.

That’s all I have for this one. There has been some improvement on the emphasis of actually getting the ball down low to Sarr (as opposed to just saying it’s an emphasis) over the past few games, but the Deacs still have a tendency to fall back into their contested mid range jump shooting ways at the first sign of pressure. If Wake can tighten up the screws in the 2nd halves of games going forward, they should be able to get back into the win column.