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Wake Forest cruises past Delaware State, 88-59

After a tough start, the Deacs found their footing and never looked back

Photo courtesy of Wake Forest basketball

WINSTON-SALEM, NC – At the second media timeout, Wake Forest head coach Steve Forbes was unhappy. His team was trailing Delaware State 21-16 and looked like a unit that hadn’t played in nine days.

“I was just pissed,” he said postgame. “It’s not how we play.”

“We’ve obviously had a long layoff. Maybe we were a little rusty coming out the gate, but that’s no excuse. I thought we had really good practices…so I was disappointed in the way that we started the game.”

Midway through the first half, the team found its footing, retook the lead and never looked back. After leading by 10 at the half, a 20-8 closing stretch in the second gave Wake Forest a comfortable 88-59 victory.

After taking a one-point advantage with 17:13 remaining in the first half, Wake Forest did not lead again until a full nine minutes of game time later. Supercharged by a 14-0 run — part of a 24-4 stretch — the Wake Forest lead slowly crept up to 15. The Deacs allowed Delaware State to get as close as six in the early part of the second half, but from there, the team quickly powered away.

The Hornets were a perfect 4-4 to open the first half. After a miss, they made four-straight additional shots. Wake Forest — at 5-12 — was by no means shooting the lights out, but was chasing a team from behind not because of the offense. The lackluster defense was hurting.

“I probably despise it more than anything, is on defense, when you’re cosmetic, fake,” Forbes said. “You’re just kind of there. You’re there, but you’re really not there. You hope that they miss, but you’re not making them miss. I thought that’s kind of how we started out.”

“Just gotta be a little bit better fired up defensively…” Andrew Carr noted. “We know going into it that we can’t just sit around and feel where the intensity should be in the first couple of minutes. We should be able to set the tone from the start a little bit better.”

Wake Forest was also serving a heavy dosage of three-point shots in the first half. The team took 17 attempts from behind the arc, well above its usual clip, and made seven. On the other hand, the Deacs shot just 11 times from two-point range.

“There’s a fine line there,” Forbes said. “They’re playing zone, it’s pretty spread out…We were getting wide-open shots…but against the three-two zone…you have to drive that ball, get inside the paint.”

“It’s a mix. There were a couple possessions where you miss a three and you might want to get it in [the paint]. But I thought we had a pretty good balance with that.”

No player was more emblematic of a change in game plan from three-point attempts to driving the ball than Hunter Sallis. After beginning the game 0-7 from the floor, the guard began getting the hoop, finishing the game with a team-high 19 points with six buckets.

“I’m gonna use the word coachability,” Forbes said. “I think sometimes, when things aren’t going so well for your shot, you gotta try to get some easy ones. And you got to create it by driving [the ball], getting fouled and making some plays defensively, which he did, and got out in transition…credit to Hunter for not just saying ‘I’m gonna continue to try to make threes. I’m gonna get closer now so I can get going, get some confidence.’”

Sallis was one of five Demon Deacons to finish the game with double-digit scoring. Boopie Miller noteched 17 points on 6-12 shooting, Carr recorded a double-double with 15 and 11 rebounds, while Cameron Hildreth added 14.

Freshman Parker Friedrichsen hit four three-pointers for 12 total points on the evening.

“That’s when we’re at our best,” Carr said of the team’s even scoring distribution. “We can play inside-out, get to the basket…it definitely showed a lot that we’re able to have a balanced attack.”

In addition, Wake Forest forced 18 turnovers, securing 24 extra points as a result. Against a team that is adept at taking the ball away in Delaware State, the Deacs turned it over only 10 times.

After going scoreless against NJIT, newly-eligible center Efton Reid was held without points for much of the game Monday. In the second half, he got on the board with two makes from the free-line, but was unsuccessful in four shot attempts from the field.

“He’s just gotta let it come to him…” Forbes said. “We gotta get him going. He’s got to play better. Some of it’s timing, some of it’s just playing. He’s a very conscientious, hard worker. He’ll be fine.”

Through 10 games, Wake Forest has found parts of the team it wants to be, the team it hopes to become. Forbes knows the Deacs can “get even better,” and has yet to find a team that he doesn’t think they have a chance to beat.

The team has the makings to win important games.

“I think defense and rebounding together give us a chance to win the big games,” Forbes said. “I think we’re gonna score… I think we could be as good as anybody.”

Wake Forest’s final non-conference matchup of the season comes in just three days, a home game against Presbyterian. Tip off is set for 3pm on Thursday.