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Wake Forest Grinds Out Win Against Longwood, 71-60, Forbes Era Starts 2-0

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It wasn’t as fun, perhaps, but I can’t say I hated it.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Florida vs East Tennessee State Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This game was significantly more of a grind than the first, but I still like what I saw. The game was touch and go for much of the proceedings, including being tied at the half. Wake Forest fell behind by as many as 5 points approximately 5 minutes into the second half, but took the lead back a few minutes later and never looked back. The game really opened up after graduate transfer sharpshooter Jonah Antonio hit back to back triples to put Wake Forest up by 7. Wake had been extremely cold from deep until that point, but Antonio clearly showed that he’s liable to go off at any time (refreshingly, on both ends of the floor). Ian DuBose led Wake Forest with a truly stat stuffed performance, with 14 points (4-7 shooting, 1-2 from deep, 5-6 from the line), 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. Antonio tied DuBose in scoring with a 5-7 shooting, 4-6 from deep performance. Jahcobi Neath and Ismael Massoud also contributed 10+ points.

Honestly, the thing that is most exciting to me so far is the defensive intensity. Wake Forest as a team had 10 steals and forced an amazing (or brutal, if you’re Longwood) 24 turnovers. The outside shooting in particular was brutal for the Deacs in the first half. but it ultimately didn’t matter, because the defensive execution and intensity were there. Sometimes I feel that the “defense wins championships” idiom is overused, but especially in basketball, defense very commonly leads to easy, fast scoring opportunities. In two games, Wake Forest has forced an average of 24.5 turnovers per game. Obviously that’s not going to keep up, but even something in that general vicinity is a very large variable in a winning formula.

I was corrected by a reader (and thanks to them for that!) that any seniors can in fact return next year if they wish; much like with football, this season is not counting against eligibility due to the ongoing pandemic. I absolutely support this, though I will admit it poses potentially interesting questions about next season’s roster. Heck, even this year, incoming Top 100 recruit (and part of the #23 ranked recruiting class in the nation for Wake Forest next season) Carter Whitt is enrolling early, and would actually be able to play in January potentially, something the announce crew was pontificating on given that any playing time accrued this year wouldn’t count at all against Whitt’s eligibility. All I know is I just want everyone to be safe and healthy, but I’d be lying if I said the circumstances of this season in all sports weren’t creating some absolutely fascinating hypotheticals.

What I do know is, we’re 2-0, and we had one stylish win and one gutsy, fairly grind out performance. I love it, quite frankly. It shows the coaches and players capable of performing in a variety of styles, and that sort of thing breeds success.

On to the next. Go Deacs.

—SF