The Wake Forest basketball team is off and running with a 77-59 blow out win over the William and Mary Tribe in the first game of the season. The Wake Forest defense was remarkably better than it has been in years past, as the Deacs jumped out to a quick 46-18 lead, grabbing 10 steals and converting them into 21 points off of turnovers in the first half. The Deacs also held the Tribe to just 24% shooting from the floor in the first 20 minutes.
The new look Deacs got plenty of contributions from their new players. Wake was led by Oklahoma transfer Alondes Williams, who stuffed the stat sheet with 22 points on 9-12 shooting, 3 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, and 1 block in 27 minutes of game action. Indiana State transfer Jake LaRavia added 13 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 steals. Freshman Cam Hildreth did not appear to be a freshman playing in his first college game—the UK native finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks in 23 minutes off the bench.
The Deacs cruised through the first game of the season, but they did not finish the game strong. Wake seemingly lost focus down the stretch, as is common when a team has a 20+ point lead for most of the game. The Wake Forest defense definitely lost its intensity in the 2nd half, allowing the Tribe to score 41 second half points on 54% shooting. The Deacs scored just 31 points in the 2nd on 42% shooting. That will likely be a point of emphasis for Head Coach Steve Forbes before the Deacs take on Western Carolina on Friday.
Here are just few thoughts I had about the first game:
- The Deacs played a near perfect first half. Wake shot 61% from the floor, 42% from 3 and finished the first half with 9 assists and 26 points in the paint.
- The defense, especially in the first half, was exceptional. The Deacs seem to be playing a pack line style defense where they shut off the driving lanes by stepping into the gap and swiping/ripping/grabbing at the ball to force turnovers.
- This is the most balanced team Wake has had in a long time. It feels like every player is capable of scoring double digits on any given night. Every position can handle the ball, shoot, drive, and score inside. That should make the Deacs a little tougher to scheme.
- Jake LaRavia is as good as advertised. He can do it all on the offensive side of the ball and has enough quickness and size to defend inside or on the perimeter.
- Cam Hildreth looks more like a football player than a freshman on the basketball team. His size will likely be one of the reasons he plays over some of the other freshman in his first year. He definitely looked like he could be a key contributor already.
- A lot of areas like rebounds, blocks, and scoring in the post are more a result of Wake’s players all being bigger, faster, stronger, and more athletic than the opponent in these early games. Those things could change drastically when Wake hits ACC play. On the other hand, things like offensive movement, passing, shooting, and the defensive scheme should carry over into ACC play. And all of those things looked great against the Tribe.
- The Deacs need to play for a full 40 minutes no matter what the score is. It didn’t matter against William and Mary, but starting bad habits now can come back to bite them when the opponent has just as much talent as they do.
The Deacs will take on former Wake star Justin Gray and the Western Carolina Catamounts in their next game on Friday. Go Deacs!