Wake Puts the D Back in Deacons

At some point during Wake Forest’s 82-53 victory over Richmond this afternoon, analyst Daymeon Fishback of the Fox South Carolinas telecast remarked that when the Deacons got back in time to set up, they were pretty solid defensively.

I can only hope Fishback never visits the Klondike in July. He’s liable to move there for the weather.

It was, metaphorically, indeed a sunny day for Wake Forest’s defense, by far the sunniest of the season. How that much that had to do with the ineptitude of the Spiders’ offense – whose DeMonte Buckingham (4-for-12) spent the afternoon proving there was no shot too easy to miss – is impossible to tell definitively.

But to get 44 stops on Richmond’s 68 trips across midcourt could be categorically described as lock-down defense, a phrase I haven’t heard associated with Wake Forest in recent seasons. The game was over by the time Richmond began the second half with nine-straight empty possessions while the Deacons were extending a 40-29 halftime lead to 51-29.

The Spiders, as a team, shot 36 percent (21-for-59) from the floor and 23 percent (6-for-26) from 3-point range, looking all the while like the worst team I’ve ever seen Coach Chris Mooney of Richmond put on the floor. And as the Wake beat guy for the Winston-Salem Journal from 1992 through 2017, I saw Mooney, now in his 13th season, put a lot of teams on the floor.

So I’ll wait until Tuesday’s game at Charlotte to assess just how much improvement the Deacons have made defensively since the early going, when they were getting shredded virtually at will by such offensive juggernauts as Georgia Southern and Liberty in Joel Coliseum. But it’s pretty clear coach Danny Manning and his staff have put the time they’ve had with the team in the gym lately to good use.

I was really curious how much zone Manning would play today after his move to the 2-3 was instrumental in Tuesday’s victory over Illinois. Turns out, the Deacons were playing so well in the man-to-man that, early on, at least, he had no need to switch it up. I counted only two first-half possessions with Wake in a zone.

But I did like the way Manning made the move down the stretch, playing zone at least the final eight possessions before Richmond scored its last bucket on a fast break. The zone might be one more card in Manning’s hand, and the more the Deacons play it the better they should get.

With Brandon Childress being sidelined for concussion protocol, we got a longer look at Melo Eggleston, and I, for one, liked what I saw. He’s active, and athletic and he’s certainly not shy. Unless I miss my best, Melo will be a fan favorite.

What I appreciated best about watching the telecast from my hacienda headquarters was how Fishback spent the game entertaining us with anecdotes from the time he spent at Friday’s practice, and how much he learned from Manning about the team. And it’s always fun to look really closely and catch my compadres Conor O’Neill of the Winston-Salem Journal and Les Johns of Demon Deacons Digest sitting at their seats along the baseline.

That’s the same Conor O’Neill and Les Johns by the way – the two reporters who cover Wake basketball daily – who are not afforded the same privilege/courtesy of attending practices.

For the record, basketball practices at Wake Forest are not closed.

They’re just exclusive.

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