It certainly was not supposed to happen this way. Wake Forest (4-1) was not supposed to shoot 25 percent in the first half, William and Mary (4-2) was not supposed to have three players in double figures, and most importantly, the Tribe was not supposed to come out of Winston-Salem, N.C. with more points than its undefeated ACC foe. Yet, all three happened after a 78-68 final, making for one of the biggest wins in the Tribe’s history.
“We controlled the flow of the ball game throughout,” Head Coach Tony Shaver said. “I really thought, defensively, we played really hard. We were really active and forced them into shooting the ball from the perimeter. And they didn’t shoot it well. Our guys played very tough, but were always very composed.”
In the 20 years since the Joel Coliseum opened, the Demon Deacons had never lost a home game in November until Saturday.
Senior guard David Schneider led all scorers with 16 points, and paired it with a team-high 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the year. He added four assists and three steals as well. Senior guard Danny Sumner and sophomore forward Quinn McDowell netted 16 and 14 points, respectively.
Despite impressive offensive numbers, it was the Tribe’s defense that guided the College to its fourth straight victory.
The Tribe’s match-up zone stymied the Demon Deacons’ potent transition offense by minimizing offensive turnovers and forcing Wake Forest to attempt long three-pointers.
“We played our normal defense, mixed in some man and zone, but we really packed it in,” Shaver said. “They are so huge; biggest team I have ever coached against. We just felt like we had to make [them] shoot and make outside shots, and our guys really carried that out nicely. We controlled the tempo with our offense.”
The Demon Deacons took 36 three-point shots over all, making only 10.
Even when Wake Forest did not settle for three-pointers, junior center Marcus Kitts stood tall inside. With senior center Steve Hess out of the contest due to illness, Kitts played 24 minutes, registering nine points and 10 rebounds.
“I thought we battled really hard on the boards,” Shaver said. “We did lose the battle by five, but we at least battled hard inside defensively.”
Wake Forest’s 6’9” forward Al-Farouq Aminu was held to 11 points, despite Aminu’s game-high 20 rebounds. Aminu entered the contest averaging over 20 points per game. Kitts limited the Demon Deacons’ three big men, Aminu being the shortest of the trio, to 32 points in the paint, while the Tribe collected 26 points of its own down low.
Wake Forest’s last lead of the contest came with a 6-5 edge early on. They tied the game at 11-11 with 9:22 left in the first half, but the Tribe would stretch its lead to 11 at 31-20 with just over a minute left, shooting 46 percent in the opening frame.
The Demon Deacons sliced the lead to four at 39-35 early in the second half. However, the Tribe recovered and the margin did not duck below five the rest of the way.
For the game, the Tribe shot 44 percent to Wake Forest’s 35. The Demon Deacons entered the contest averaging 81 points per game to their opponent’s 56 points, while shooting over 50 percent from the floor.
“They had over 9,000 people there,” Shaver said. “I think they were a little bit in a daze watching their basketball team at some times … Any time you can win on the road, especially on an ACC floor, you’ve done a good job.”
The College returns home to face Longwood Wednesday at 7 p.m.
“If we don’t get a good crowd next week, we never will,” Shaver said. “If they can’t come watch these guys play then they may never. They deserve guys to be there, and I’m sure they will.”