Playing on only 40 hours of rest after Friday night's opening victory against Oral Roberts Wake Forest didn't show any signs of fatigue, dominating the East Carolina Pirates 89-58. Wake's record improves to 2-0 while East Carolina fell to 1-1 on the young season.
"I thought our kids played really, really hard, with a lot of energy and a lot of emotion. I told them I thought it was very good win for us. I'm really pleased with the effort we gave coming back from playing Friday night in less than 48 hours."
The Demon Deacons started the game by picking up right where they left off against Oral Roberts. They showed off a reasonably potent offense, but even more impressive was their stifling defense, which held ECU to just 11 points from the field in the first half and forced 11 turnovers. Were it not for the Pirates 17-20 free throw shooting the 46-28 halftime margin would have been much bigger. East Carolina was held to 19 percent shooting from the field and were only one of nine from beyond the three point line.
Wake's offense spread the ball around well and limited themselves to only six first half turnovers. The big men all had some nice moves in the post, and freshmen Ari Stewart and Konner Tucker each showcased nice three point strokes.
The only downside of the first half for the Deacs was their own free throw shooting, where they made only 10 of 19 attempts. On all but one trip to the line for the Deacs Wake missed at least one free throw.
Wake didn't let down at the start of the second half, opening with a 12-4 run to take a 26 point lead. ECU called a quick timeout and responded with an 8-2 run of their own, but Wake was not going to allow the Pirates to make this one a close game.
Although they played a bit sloppier with nine second half turnovers, Wake continued to expand the lead, going up by as many as 36 points with three and a half minutes left.
"We're learning; we're learning to play together. I wish we would have had a little more time between our first game and our second game. We've got a quick turnaround again on Wednesday and then we've got six days off and I can get after them a little bit."
For the second straight game Al-Farouq Aminu led the Deacs in scoring with 23 points and missed a second consecutive double-double by a single rebound, grabbing nine. He stroked a nice three pointer in the second half and was a bright spot at the free throw line, hitting six of eight. He put his longer arm to good use on the defensive end, nabbing three steals, but also had three turnovers on the offensive end.
Ishmael Smith added 14 points but really didn't play particularly well. He was just 6-13 from the floor and just about all of his made baskets were layups. He was 0-3 beyond the arc and only made two of six free throw attempts.
"1,100 free throws he's shot in the last nine days," explained Gaudio. "I don't know what else to do with him. He's around 71-72 percent [in practice]. If he can give us 67 I'd take it and run."
After a poor first game on Friday night Tony Woods had one of the best efforts of his career, scoring 12 points, grabbing ix rebounds, and blocking two shots. He has clearly developed some new post moves and put them to good use against the Pirates.
"He's had a great preseason, and he didn't play well Friday night, and he knew it. I thought he stepped up and played more aggressive," said Gaudio.
Ty Walker also got in the mix today, playing 11 minutes and having two big blocks and a career high six points. He still has a way to before being a significant factor for this team, but is clearly starting to come along.
"Our posts got a lot of touches inside tonight and that's really good for us," said Gaudio.
Wake's three newcomers had another nice day. Ari Stewart led the way with nine points, but Konner Tucker had seven (stroking a second three pointer in the second half) and C.J. Harris had six, going four for four at the free throw line. Stewart did struggle a bit with ball control, turning it over four times.
"I think Ari Stewart's ceiling is incredibly high. He has tremendous potential," said Gaudio. "And when [Tucker] shoots it I think it's going in."
Wake had too much size for East Carolina to handle, dominating the battle inside. They scored 58 points in the paint to only 20 for the Pirates. Wake also seriously outran the Pirates, scoring 20 points in transition.
Defensively Wake was very happy to hold East Carolina to only 25 percent shooting for the game. Other than a few mental lapses on the glass it was a very nice defensive performance. Dino Gaudio was not pleased to give up 25 offensive rebounds, but was still satisfied with the team's job overall.
"I thought our defense was outstanding," said Gaudio. "I thought our kids did a really good job of guarding. Holding them to 24 percent is pretty good. I was a little bit frustrated with our rebounding; we gave up too many offensive rebounds, but there were a little more offensive rebounds to be had in this game because we made them miss a lot of shots. We also have to do a little bit better job guarding without fouling."
"If we're guarding and we're playing hard all those other things will get better for us. So far we've really done that. This helps our RPI a little bit; it's considered a road game. These two games we've opened up with have been against two pretty good teams."
Photos courtesy Bob Hebert