High Point gave Wake Forest a scare on Wednesday night, leading the Demon Deacons for the first 17 minutes of the game with some hot outside shooting from Nick Barbour and Eugene Harris. Wake made the right adjustments at halftime, though, and ultimately cruised to an 83-60 victory over the Panthers.
High Point Jumps out to early advantage
With 11:25 remaining in the first half High Point held a nine point lead over the Demon Deacons, 24-15. They had already hit five three pointers and had Wake Forest squarely on its heels. After cruising easily from the opening tip in their first two games, the Deacs seemed stunned to be trailing and didn't appear to have an answer.
The Panthers did their damage by utilizing a small lineup, penetrating inside, and kicking the ball out for three pointers opportunities. Wake defenders were collapsing on the penetrating player, leaving shooters open outside the arc.
Wake makes necessary adjustments to come back
A halftime adjustment away from this defensive strategy was the catalyst for Wake's turnaround.
"Our defense is predicated to being in help position," explained Dino Gaudio. "In the first half they were dribble driving and kicking out for threes. We had to make a little adjustment at halftime where we said 'let's just lock on to the driver and let's stay attached to our wings so they can't drive and kick.' We're such a help predicated basketball team, and we've been doing it since October 16, it's tough to switch gears in the first 20 minutes. I thought we did a great job adjusting in the second half."
The Deacs certainly did. In the second half High Point only shot 24 percent from the field after shooting nearly 44 percent in the first half. After being 7 of 16 from beyond in the arc in the first half, they only managed to get up seven attempts in the second half and only made two of those.
Meanwhile, Wake's offense kicked it into high gear. Not only did they shoot almost 52 percent from the field, but for the first time this season the Deacs got the job done at the foul line. High Point fouled a lot, and Wake ended up at the foul line for 36 attempts, making 28. After going 17-27 against ECU and 13-22 against ORU, it was a noticeable improvement and really provided a boost.
"Deacs did a great job at the foul line tonight and I told the kids it was a big difference in the game," said Gaudio.
By the end of the half Wake had a comfortable lead, ahead by as many as 27 with four minutes remaining. When the final buzzer sounded Wake even had a lineup of five walk-ons in the game.
As can be expected all season long, Al-Farouq Aminu led the Wake offense with 22 points. He pulled down 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season, 12th of his career. His 22 points came off of impressive 8-10 shooting from the field and 6-7 from the line. He added three assists, a block, and a steal for good measure.
After struggling through the first two games of the season Ishmael Smith finally put his game together against High Point, contributing 13 points and five assists, shooting 4-7 from the field and 5-6 from the free throw line. He also had just two turnovers.
C.J. Harris and Chas McFarland were the other Demon Deacons in double figures, with 12 and 11 respectively. McFarland also had a double-double, grabbing 12 rebounds.
Wake dominates glass, ultimately entire game
High Point did not have a lot of size, utilizing a small lineup for much of the game. Although this afforded them several advantages, it also hurt them by giving Wake a huge advantage on the glass. Wake pulled down 42 rebounds to only 28 for High Point.
15 minutes into the second half High Point had only managed to score just 9 points. They also hadn't scored for the last 1:46 of the first half. Meanwhile, in the same period Wake had gone from being down by one point at 38-39 to leading 73-48, a 35-9 run for the Demon Deacons.
More from Gaudio on halftime adjustments
Gaudio felt like his team did a pretty good job facing a challenge early in the game and making adjustments to overcome it.
"I don't care who we're playing, when we're playing, there's going to be some adversity in every game," said Gaudio. "Whether we're up 10 and they cut it to 4, or we're down like we were. I just tell them, 'Here it is boys, let's see how we handle it.' They did a pretty good job the last part of the first half, and coming out the second half."
"Good teams are able to make adjustments. When we go in at halftime and say 'we're just going to stay attached to shooters on the wing,' it's hard to break those habits which we've been teaching since October 16. But we just say 'we're going to guard one on one, and bigs don't help off the big guy because they were driving in the first half and dumping down or kicking out to shooters,' and the kids did a great job adjusting."
Wake Forest has improved to 3-0 on the season and now has nearly a week off before facing cross-town opponent Winston-Salem State.