Wake Forest trips against Seton Hall
Wake Forest’s freshman-laden team stood in position to take a big step in its maturation process Saturday.
Instead of posting one of the biggest wins during the Jeff Bzdelik era, the Demon Deacons fell flat on their faces with a pratfall big enough that it brought questions about the possibility of it hurting mentally during a nine-day break until their next game.
Wake looked as if the night would end in a positive direction and post a win over a power-confernece team while putting together its best 20 minutes of the season to build a 47-55 lead and stand 10 minutes away from defeating Seton Hall, which came in with a misleading 6-2 record built on defeating the likes of Maine and Norfolk State but is a Big East member nonetheless.
But, the Demon Deacons unraveled against the Pirates full-court press, were constantly out-muscled in the battles for rebounds and wound up losing, 71-67, dropping to 4-5.
Junior forward Travis McKie, who has dealt with plenty of losses since Bzdelik took over the program in 2010, didn’t believe the setback would have a lasting impact even though the Deacons can stew over it during their time off from basketball while they take final fall semester exams.
“No, I don’t,” McKie said. “We just have to keep our heads up. C.J. (senior C.J. Harris) and I have been through a bunch of these. So, we have to keep our heads up and made sure the young guys keep their heads up.”
Plenty of players had reason to hang their heads on Saturday as the Deacons committed 9 of their 18 turnovers in the last 10 minutes. Seton Hall repeatedly took advantage of freshman guards Codi Miller-McIntrye and Madison Jones while flicking the ball away. The Pirates picked off passes and threw the Deacons off their game so much that they to scramble to keep from throwing the ball away at times. They rattled Wake so much that Harris dribbled the ball off his leg.
“We stopped being aggressive like we were when we handled their press in the first half,” Harris said. “We would hesitate when we beat it and then they would knock it away. In the first half, we kept going and passed it off and we would down a 3.”
Even with all the miscues, Wake took a 2-point lead with 53 seconds left when Harris hit his seventh 3 of the night as he broke out of his offensive slump to score 28 points that were backed by McKie’s 16 in one of the biggest positives of the night.
Then, the wheels came off, helped by a poor referee’s call that enabled the Pirates to keep possession even though the ball went off the leg of a Seton Hall player in a battle for a rebound. Eugene Teague then made the second of two free throws a few seconds later to cut the margin to one with 34 ticks left.
Then came a play that helped seal the Deacons’ fate. On the inbounds, sophomore guard Chase Fischer became trapped by a double-team in a corner. He made a blind-pass in the direction of Jones but it was tipped and Brandon Mobley dunked it to put the Pirates ahead with 28 seconds to go.
Harris tried to conjure up another bit of magic but his shot the front rim with 10 seconds left, and the Pirates made 3-of-4 free throws in the final seven seconds.
“We’ve got to be ball strong,” Bzdelik said of Fischer’s play. “But as soon as we got the ball we threw it. YOu are supposed to turn and face the court. You’ve got a guy down the middle, a guy down the strong-side alley, a guy behind you. But it was a hot potato to us.”
The youngsters may eventually smarter and stronger but they will no doubt be pressed until proving they can get the ball up the court. The conference opener against Duke is less than a month away.