Last night, Feb. 7, the Demon Deacons went down to Miami, Florida to face off against the Hurricanes. After a promising first half that saw the Demon Deacons control the game and hold the lead at times, Wake Forest eventually came up short, losing 87-81 and falling to a 2-10 record in the ACC.
This season, Miami is ranked No. 25 overall and No. 4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, an indication of the competitiveness of the ACC this season and over the past few years. Coach Manning’s starting lineup of graduate student Terrence Thompson, junior Doral Moore, freshman Chaundee Brown, junior Bryant Crawford and junior Brandon Childress is an indication of his reliance on players of varying ages throughout the season compared to his ACC competitors. Miami is no different. The Hurricanes’ starting lineup includes two freshman, two sophomores and one junior. In the first few minutes of the first half, it only took three minutes for Miami to establish a lead and settle into the game. However, the Demon Deacons stayed in the game and remained competitive in the first half despite Miami’s Lonnie Walker IV scoring 11 in the first half and going two for three in three-point jumpers.At the end of the first half, Wake Forest’s season-long problem of not being able to finish in a particular period of play was evident. The Demon Deacons were down by four points with a score of 35-31 at half, but slightly outperformed the Hurricanes on offense. Keeping a strong field goal percentage throughout the half, Wake Forest made 43.8 percent against Miami’s 43.3 percent. In terms of three-point shots, the Deacons went 3-9 while the Hurricanes went 3-10. Each team had six turnovers.
The key issue which caused Wake Forest to suffer in the total points category was the accumulation of seven fouls in the first half, giving the Hurricanes seven easy points. With 15 minutes left in the second half, Wake Forest tied the game 41-41 and gave the Hurricanes a tough time on offense. About halfway through the second half, only one point was scored in the course of about two minutes as the teams engaged in a defensive battle. With eight minutes left to go, Miami was winning 54-52 and from there, the Hurricanes continued to pull away. However, with 40 and 25 seconds to go, two back-to-back three-point jumpers by Bryant Crawford decreased Miami’s lead to a mere three points, but it was not enough to push them over the hump. With one minute to go, Miami was leading by seven points, a lead the Demon Deacons could not quite overcome.
Although this seems to be the storyline recently for the 9-14 team, the difference between the beginning of the season and now seems to be the stronger unity on defense and the emergence of Moore as a powerful post player who can command the floor. Besides Moore, Childress, Crawford and Woods have scored the majority of the points for the team this season, but it seems the Deacons are missing one more playmaker and have had trouble replacing John Collins.
However, there is hope on the horizon. Danny Manning’s incoming recruiting class shows a serious level of promise and will hopefully make them more competitive against such a tough ACC schedule.
Top scorers for the Demon Deacons include Crawford with 23 points and freshman Chaundee Brown with 20 points.
This particular matchup was strong for Brown, tying his career total points in a game record with his performance at Louisville on Jan. 27.
Similar to his other freshman counterpart Olivier Sarr, Brown shows true potential in the first season of his college career, and hopefully will be able to become a leader for head coach Danny Manning down the line.
At the end of the day, the Demon Deacons seem to be repeating a storyline that is all too familiar caused by a few specific factors. First is the Demon Deacon’s struggle to finish the game. Coming close is not the issue. Evident in last night’s defeat against Miami by six points, Virginia Tech’s triumph by 12, and the frustrating four-point defeat by Florida State; Wake Forest does not often get blown out by their opponents, but rather, they get outsmarted by superior teams in the last few minutes of each game.
Another big problem for the Demon Deacons is foul trouble on a game-to-game basis.
In this particular instance, the Deacons got into foul trouble early in the first half, and the streak did not end in the second half, as the Hurricanes were able to score 27 points exclusively in free throw shots. When a team allows that many points from the line, it becomes difficult to remain competitive
Lastly, the inconsistency of Childress and Crawford, despite their athleticism and talent, has prevented the Demon Deacons from finding an offensive rhythm in several games this season.