After an unusual 2 week break, Wake Forest defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday to pick up their 1st conference win of the season by a score of 69-65. It had been so long since the Deacs had a game that it felt like this one was their first this decade. While it looked like the Deacs were more rust than rest early on, they were able to battle back from a 6-22 deficit in the first 10 minutes to trail by just 3 at halftime. Ultimately, Wake was able to take the lead and win this game by getting the ball inside the defense and kicking it out to the open man, getting wide open looks at the basket—something they have struggle with in the past.
The Deacs finished the game with 15 assists on 21 made baskets and shot 47% from the field and 39% from the 3-point line. That may not seem that great at first glance, but going in to Saturday’s game, Wake was averaging 13.5 assists per game and shooting 42% from the floor and 33% from the 3-point line. Last season, Wake had multiple games that they finished with under 5 assists, so assisting on 70% of their made baskets in the first conference game of the new year seems like a very encouraging improvement.
The reason for that improvement is simple: the Deacs did a great job getting the ball inside Pitt’s zone, and then did an even better job passing the ball to the open man when the defense collapsed.
It was a total team effort in the win, as the Deacs had 8 players score 4 or more points and 5 players record at least 1 assist. Wake was led in scoring by freshman Ismael Massoud, who finished with 14 points on 4-8 shooting, including 3-6 from the 3-point line.
Even though he only scored 8 points, Brandon Childress probably had the best game for the Deacs. He had no trouble driving into the middle of the Pitt zone and then did a fantastic job dumping the ball off to the open guy. He was never in a hurry or pressing—he just took what the defense gave him, and the result was a team high 6 assists and just 2 turnovers.
Olivier Sarr had a similar game, scoring just 6 points but dishing out 4 assists from the post position.
This was a great all around team win for Wake Forest, who picked up just their 6th ACC road win under Danny Manning. This current group appears to have the best chemistry of any team in the Manning era, and if they can keep sharing the ball and playing together like they did against Pitt, I see no reason why they won’t have a chance to be competitive in what appears to be a down year for the ACC.