CHARLESTON, S.C. — The diverse weaponry of the Deacs has made a believer of UTEP coach Tim Floyd.
Floyd watched Wake hit 13-of-20 first-half 3-point attempts to blitz the Miners to the tune of a 63-44 halftime deficit.
Then he watched Wake’s post game take over the second half, as John Collins exploded for a team-leading 24 points after not taking a single field goal attempt in the first stanza.
The Deacs (3-0) cruised to a 103-81 win Thursday afternoon over the Miners (1-1) in TD Arena to advance to the semifinals of the Charleston Classic against Villanova (3-0).
“I thought Wake Forest played terrific,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “They shot the ball exceedingly well.
“The have a really nice team. I’ve talked to a couple coaches who told me they were going to be the most improved team in the ACC this year. They were picked way too low and have the opportunity to make the biggest jump. We certainly believe that on what we saw tonight.”
The 63 first-half points by Wake is tied for fifth all-time for most points in a half, and the most in a half since the 1990-91 opener against Howard where the Deacs won 108-74.
“We came out and got hot early,” Wake coach Danny Manning said. “We shot the ball exceptionally well and that opened things up for us. In the second half, we had a more conscious effort to throw the ball inside and play inside-out.”
The 103 points Thursday is the most scored by the Deacs in the Manning era, and the most scored in a game since Wake topped UNC Wilmington 120-88 on Nov. 19, 2008, during Dino Gaudio’s tenure.
Graduate student transfer forward Austin Arians started the 3-point barrage early, draining back-to-back from long range in a 25-second span to give the Deacs a 10-4 lead with at the 18:11 mark of the first half.
Arians finished with eight points, two assists and a rebound in 19 minutes of action.
“We weren’t close to them on a lot of shots,” Floyd said. “It started off with Arians making back-to-back 3s early. We knew he was a terrific shooter, and we weren’t close to him.”
An 8-0 run by UTEP closed the Wake lead to 26-22 with 10:49 left in the first half, but the Deacs answered with a 21-9 run of their own punctuated by back-to-back 3-pointers by junior forward Dinos Mitoglou.
It was Mitoglou’s best game of the young season, totalling 18 points on 4-of-6 shooting behind the arc. He added seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Sophomore transfer guard Keyshawn Woods scored 10 first-half points on perfect shooting from the field. He finished the game with 16 points, going 6-for-7 from the field.
Point guard Bryant Crawford drained a 3-pointer with 1:42 left in the half to give the Deacs their first 20-point margin of the game at 59-39 and closed out the half with a drive to the bucket with :14 seconds remaining. Crawford finished with 20 points, two steals, and seven assists against just one turnover.
“Crawford shot it well and Dinos had a terrific half. We weren’t close to him,” Floyd said. “We knew he could shoot it. You can’t guard if you don’t guard the 3-point line, which we did a very poor job of this evening.”
Aside from the working margin, the second half was a stark departure from the first for Wake. Although they hit a Danny Manning era record-tying 13 3-pointers in the first half, they attempted just one behind the arc in the second.
Instead the Deacs penetrated, pulled up and fed the post.
“I can’t really point to anything we did well defensively,” Floyd said. “Be it perimeter coverage or guarding the interior. If they decided they wanted to go lay it up, they laid it up.”
Collins, who didn’t attempt a first-half shot, was fed early and often. With 17:23 left in the game, Crawford threw a lob pass to the heavens. As the pass floated to the right of the rim, seemingly at the top of the goal, Collins grabbed it with just his right hand and threw it down for the dunk of the tournament thus far.
Manning said he didn’t explicitly stop the Deacs from shooting 3s in the second half.
“We wanted to make sure we got our inside guys looks and make sure we got some paint touches,” Manning said. “When we get paint touches, either by the pass or by the dribble, it gives us a chance to get to the free throw line and get to the bonus. It also gives you a better chance of getting offensive rebounds.”
A pair of Mitoglou free throws extended the Wake lead to 28 points at 102-74 with 3:49 left in the game. Manning eventually emptied the bench, with all 16 players making an appearance. Mitchell Wilbekin, who finished with eight points and three assists, led the team with 29 minutes played.
Collins finished 9-of-10 from the field and hit 6-of-9 foul shots to lead the team with 24 points. He grabbed six rebounds, had a block and two steals in just 23 minutes of action. Both he and Doral Moore earned foul personal fouls.
“A really cool part of their team is that Collins didn’t take a shot in first half, and he comes in as their leading scorer,” Floyd said. “Then they get him 10 shots in the second half and he goes 9-for-10.”
Wake shot 80 percent from the foul line, going 20-for-25.
Manning felt the Wake defense could have been better, as they allowed the Miners 81 points on 53.4 percent field goal shooting.
“We shot 60 percent in the first half and were down 19,” Floyd said.
“As well as we shot the ball, UTEP shot the ball at a pretty good clip, to be honest with you,” Manning said. “As we continue to play and get closer to our league, that's a number that’s not going to help us win league games.”
Manning diagnosed the Deacs issues on defense.
“We need to stay in front of the basketball,” he said. “They broke us down too much in dribble penetration. Then we need to be solid in our defensive principles.”
The Deacs outrebounded UTEP 33-24. Wake finished with 22 assists on 35 made buckets.
“I thought they were very unselfish and passed the ball very well,” Floyd said. “I’m a believer in the Deacons. They have a very nice, well-coached team. They have a lot of intangibles.”
The Deacs will now face defending NCAA champion Villanova at 1:30 p.m. Friday in the Charleston Classic semifinals.
“We’re excited about it,” Manning said about playing Villanova. “We get a chance to play a that, rightfully so, is one of the higher-ranked teams in the country. Jay (Wright) does a great job and they have a tremendous team. They have a lot of versatile guys who shoot the basketball well. It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s something we welcome and look forward to.
“It’s going to give us a chance to see where we’re at and where we need to be.”