Troy game postponed after strong start for men’s basketball

The Demon Deacons’ start to the season proves promising under the leadership of head coach Steve Forbes

Christian Odjakjian, Staff Writer

College basketball is officially underway, and the Demon Deacons are 2-0 for the first time since 2016. However, team activities have since been paused, and the game scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 2 against Troy has been postponed. 

“After consultation with our medical professionals, and in an abundance of caution, we will pause activities within our men’s basketball program for the rest of this week,” Director of Athletics John Currie said. “Our top priority is the health and safety of our student-athletes, and given the significant increase in COVID-19 infections both in Forsyth County and throughout North Carolina, this is the right decision.”

Wake Forest football hasn’t played a game since Nov. 14, and both football and basketball games have been getting cancelled or postponed left and right. Most recently, the already rescheduled Dec. 5 game against Miami has been postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests on the Demon Deacon football team. 

On the bright side, the Demon Deacons looked fantastic in their decimation of an outmatched Delaware State team on Nov. 25. Newly minted head coach Steve Forbes secured his first victory in the home opener with a 111-51 win. The Hornets kept it close for most of the first half, until a 28-0 run across six minutes gave Wake Forest a 59-30 lead going into the intermission.

It was a record breaking day all around for the team. The halftime lead was the largest the program has seen since 2004. The 60-point margin of victory has only been outdone in the modern era by the ‘83 squad in their 65 point win over Buffalo. Also, the signature Forbes energy was very prevalent — the 20 steals of the afternoon are the second most in school history.

“We were on brand for most of the day which means we played to our identity,” Forbes said. “I wasn’t really looking at the score, I was looking more at if we were playing hard and playing together, and sharing the ball.” 

A lot of new faces were out on the court in the season debut, and they made their presence felt. Tennessee transfer Jalen Johnson finished with 16 points, and Virginia Tech transfer Isaiah Wilkins had five steals. Redshirt freshman Tariq Ingraham, who missed all of last season with a torn achilles, went a perfect 7-7 from the field and scored a game high 19 points. 

The Mako Medical Classic continued at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum as the Deacs hosted the Longwood Lancers, who put up a much stronger fight. The two teams were knotted up at 34 at halftime. Longwood took a 45-44 lead in the second half before Wake Forest went on a crucial 10-0 run and never looked back. UNLV sharpshooting transfer Jonah Antonio hit back-to-back threes on the run, and is shooting 8-14 from downtown through his first two games as a Demon Deacon. 

“We got to play some games,” Forbes said. “We’ve got to get stressed. We’ve got to have some film where I can show them we need to fix this and that. And this is what happened, this is how you got down, but the other side of it is too, this is how you came back.”

The Deacs emerged victorious with a final score of 71-60. Antonio had 14 points, and so did Houston Baptist transfer Ian Dubose. Dubose also chipped in a team-high five assists. Returning sophomores Ismael Massoud and Jahcobi Neath joined them in scoring double figures.

Wake Forest’s defense was disruptive all night, forcing 24 Longwood turnovers. They forced two five-second violations, and caused five total turnovers on out-of-bounds plays. 

Forbes’ coaching identity is rooted in moving the ball offensively, and being tough on defense. The competition will obviously elevate as the season progresses (COVID-19 permitting), but the style of play as well as the collection of young talent and new faces gives fans a lot to be excited about as the season progresses. 

The unexpected hiatus surely won’t be the only coronavirus complication the team faces during the season, but hopefully protocols are able to be executed so that the Deacs can play a lot of games this season. 

While Former Head Coach Danny Manning was on ESPN’s college basketball studio show throughout this week, the Forbes era began in Winston-Salem. The program, Demon Deacon fans hope, is just beginning their journey back into true national relevance.