Womens’ basketball starts season off strong in Gulf Coast Showcase

The Last Deacons returned from the showcase winning two of their three match-ups

Essex Thayer, Staff Writer

This past weekend, the Wake Forest women’s basketball team began their season at the Gulf Coast Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla. The tournament featured Florida Gulf Coast University, Davidson, No. 14 Arkansas, No. 24 Missouri State, No. 12 Maryland and the Demon Deacons. Wake Forest entered the season outside of the Top 25 in the NCAA rankings. 

On Friday, the lady Deacons began their 2020-2021 campaign against Arkansas, then ranked No. 14 in the nation. The Demon Deacons came out strong against the Razorbacks in the first 20 minutes of play, entering half time trailing 42-40. 

In the third quarter, Wake Forest’s shooting errors finally caught up to them, with Arkansas outscoring the Demon Deacons 37-18. Wake Forest finished the game by winning the fourth quarter, but the Razorbacks still won comfortably, 98-82. A bright spot for Wake Forest was the play of senior Gina Conti, who led the team in minutes (32) and points (23) while shooting 8-12 from the floor and 3-5 from beyond the arc.

In their second game, on Saturday, Wake Forest once again started hot against the unranked Davidson Wildcats, scoring at a 53% clip in the first quarter. With 23 points scored off turnovers and 33 points scored in the paint, the Demon Deacons never relinquished their first-quarter lead and coasted to an 85-77 win. Wake Forest was led by senior forward Ivana Raca, who scored 25 points, while Conti added nineteen. 

Raca entered her senior campaign with high hopes and expectations, tabbed as a consensus preseason all-ACC pick. 

“She came in with a lot of weight on her shoulders,” Wake Forest coach Jen Hoover said in an interview with 247 Sports’ Les Johns. “She’s hearing she should lead our conference in scoring, and stuff like that … We want her to elevate her teammates, and as she draws so much attention, that will be even more important as the season moves on.”

On Sunday, in their final matchup of the showcase, Wake Forest put forth the best performance of their young season, taking down No. 24 Missouri State 68-59. This win came less than 24 hours after the Lady Bears defeated No. 12 Maryland by nine points. 

Wake Forest followed their theme of beginning the game well by shooting 64% on field goals in the first quarter, and taking a four-point lead into the half. The Demon Deacons blew the game wide open in the third quarter, outscoring Missouri State 23-14. Raca once again led Wake Forest to victory, scoring 23 points while shooting 50% from behind the 3-point arc. 

“We were so focused to just win and execute the game plan. I’m so proud of my teammates. We had fun playing and grabbed the big win,” Raca told Johns in the 247 Sports’ interview. 

Following their 2-1 start to the season in Fort Myers, Wake Forest moved into 31st in the NCAA rankings, falling under the “others receiving votes” section of the rankings.

The Charlotte 49ers will host the Demon Deacons for their next game on Dec. 3, which will be broadcasted on ESPN+.