By Ken Cross
The ink on the quill was ready to stroke a signature win for Danny Manning against the No. 6 Xavier Musketeers in the Skip Prosser Classic on Tuesday night, but just after halftime the well ran dry. It was a tale of two halves as Wake Forest used 13 points from Bryant Crawford to push to a 43-28 halftime advantage over the Musketeers. The pendulum swung to the other side in the second half as Xavier scored 50 points and shot 59.3 percent from the floor. Crawford was held to three points in the second half and couldn’t get freed of the Musketeers’ 1-3-1 zone.
“I saw a freshman,” commented Wake Forest coach Danny Manning, “I saw a talented freshman that’s fearless. He’s going to be the leader of our team for the next three years. He’s got to get better from it. He can’t let it happen again.”
After going 4-of-7 from the floor and making three triples, he was 1-of-3 in the second half and finished with a game-high 16 points.
“We struggled to score with the 1-3-1 and they came out more aggressive than us,” Crawford noted of the second half, “Down that stretch, we fell back we got the pressure applied like we did in the first half. We got a few calls that did not go our way. Me, personally, I lost my head and cost us some extra points that added to their momentum.”
It was a tough night for Wake Forest leading scorer Devin Thomas, who only took three shots from the floor in 20 minutes and fell victim to the physicality of the Musketeers, especially in the second half.
Thomas, who came into the game averaging 17.3 points and 10.7 boards was negated to ten points and eight rebounds in playing nine less minutes than his average.
“We can’t play games when our leading scorer only gets three field goal attempts,” said Manning of the Deacons’ offensive attack, “He shot 10 free throws so that means he got fouled in the shooting motion a few times, but we have to continue to play inside-out. That’s the key to our success. We get the ball into the paint and then throw it out. Tonight, we didn’t get the ball into the paint nearly enough. They didn’t allow that to happen tonight.”
Youth being served
Except for Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre, Manning is using a freshman-sophomore dominated line up and many of these young players are playing key roles in Wake Forest’s 8-3 start. The 6-10 John Collins joined Crawford as another freshman making key contributions as he kept Wake Forest in the game in the second half. Collins scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds in 19 minutes as he finished five-of-six from the field for his eighth double figures outing on the season.
The key with freshman is for them to finish strong in the clutch. The Demon Deacons have survived several comebacks by opponents this season, but were not throttled in a half like they were on Tuesday. Last Friday, Coastal Carolina rallied from 14 down before losing to the Deacons, 83-77 as their five-game winning streak was by a total of 23 points.
“It’s just a matter of going out and doing a better job of executing,” said Crawford, “We had an opportunity to tonight, and like I said, they came out in the second half and delivered the first blow and we didn’t respond well.”
Crawford and Collins are going to learn immeasurably with the minutes that Manning is giving them. He knows there will be mistakes, but the yield will be insurmountable.
“They’re freshmen. We know that they’re going to have the freshman peaks and valleys, and it’s going to happen throughout the course of the ball game. Bryant Crawford is a battler, he’s a warrior. He’s going to be the leader of our team for the next three years.”