Wake Forest looked like a team with something to prove in their season opener on Friday night, as they put a sound beating on the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles 76-56. The Demon Deacons were led by sophomore forward Al-Farouq Aminu's 25 point and 13 rebound performance, his 11th career double-double.
"It's a good win for us," said head coach Dino Gaudio. "We'll look back on this and it will be a very good RPI win."
For Aminu the performance was just one point and one rebound shy of matching his career highs in each category.
Dominant on the glass
Perhaps more impressive than Aminu's performance, however, was the job the entire team did on the glass, outrebounding Oral Roberts 51-26. Even more impressive was the fact that Wake had more offensive rebounds than the Eagles did defensive rebounds, winning that battle 20-15. Oral Roberts head coach Scott Sutton said he could never remember a team beating him so soundly on the glass.
"We did a great job on the backboard," Gaudio. "Every day in practice there is a coach assigned to the offensive backboard, and they're just barking at them guys to get to the board. I really think we can be one of the best rebounding teams in the conference. We just really really want to emphasize that."
In the first half the Deacs got out to a slow start for the first few minutes, but they quickly turned on the pressured for the rest of the first half. They did a particularly well on the defensive end of the floor, holding Oral Roberts to 31 percent shooting and allowing only six offensive rebounds.
On the offensive end of the floor Wake looked good. They played team offense, with no one really dominating the scoring. Aminu led the way with seven first half points while freshman C.J. Harris and senior Chas McFarland each contributed six.
With five minutes left in the half Wake had doubled Oral Roberts' score at 32-16. They finished the half with 30 rebounds to only 15 for the Golden Eagles. At the half Wake led 39-23.
Oral Roberts opened the second half with a 7-2 run to cut the Deacons lead, but Wake had an answer. Freshman Ari Stewart found his stroke, hitting two big three pointers and finishing the game with 11 points.
The Golden Eagles made another run with five minutes left, hitting a big three pointer to cut the lead to 10. Oral Roberts head coach Scott Sutton called a quick timeout and switched his team to a zone defense.
The strategy backfired. Aminu came out of the timeout on fire, scoring nine straight points with two three pointers and a foul on a made layup. The lead was back to 19 and the Deacs would not allow Oral Roberts another chance.
"In every game we're going to face adversity," explained Gaudio. "How we handle that adversity will define us a little bit, and I thought we did a great job with that. Farouq made a couple of big shots."
Chas McFarland and L.D. Williams were the other two Demon Deacons in double figures ith 10 points each.
Wake turned the ball over more than they would have liked with 18. They also struggled a bit with their free throws, only making 13 of 22 for 59 percent.
Not surprising given the rebound margin, Wake dominated the battle for second chance points with 17 to Oral Roberts' eight. They also had 12 fast break points to only two for Oral Roberts.
The starting lineup consisted of Ishmael Smith, L.D. Williams, Al-Farouq Aminu, Tony Woods, and Chas McFarland. Ari Stewart, C.J. Harris, and David Weaver each played at least 14 minutes and all made significant contributions. Konner Tucker and Ty Walker each played sparingly and neither scored.
Other than his five rebounds, Tony Woods was mostly nonexistent. He missed his only shot and had a turnover. David Weaver, who split minutes between power forward and center, played a better game with eight points and seven rebounds. It would not be surprising to see him crack the starting lineup in the near future.
Ishmael Smith had a rough night, shooting only 2-12 from the field, 0-2 from the free throw line, and turning the ball over five times. He is unlikely to lose his starting spot any time soon, but he has struggled in two straight outings now, both last week's exhibition against IUP and again against Oral Roberts.
Photos courtesy of Bob Hebert.