CHARLESTON, S.C. — After three-consecutive blowout victories, the Deacs were in search of a test — perhaps even a measuring stick to see where they’re at in Danny Manning’s third year at the helm.
Measuring stick, indeed.
Wake ran into a well-oiled offensive machine in defending national champion Villanova.
The Wildcats shot 57.6 percent from the field, drained 16 3-pointers and dominated the glass in a 96-77 win over the Deacs Friday afternoon at TD Arena.
“Obviously, we’re upset with the outcome of the game,” Wake coach Danny Manning said. “Villanova is a very talented team. We all know that. They’re the defending national champions.
“They came out today and established that they were going to play with intensity and effort. We responded a little bit, but probably not the way we should have. At the end of the game, there’s a loose ball and four or five of their guys are diving after it. That’s the intangibles, and we thought the intangibles hurt us tonight.”
Villanova senior guard Josh Hart started hot, hitting four of his first five shots to give the Wildcats leads of 8-0 and 16-8. The only Nova basket he didn’t score during that stretch was a 3-pointer by Kris Jenkins, but Hart earned the assist on that one.
“Josh started off fast and efficient,” Manning said. “They share the basketball. They’re a terrific team, and tonight they came out and did what they needed to do.”
A Keyshawn Woods 3-pointer brought the Deacs to within four at 25-21 with 10:34 left in the first half, but an 8-2 spurt by the Wildcats topped off by another bomb by Hart gave Villanova a double-digit lead once more.
Woods finished with 10 points for Wake on 4-of-8 shooting, adding four rebounds and five assists.
A pull-up jumper by Mitchell Wilbekin and a pair of free throws by junior forward Dinos Mitoglou both got the Deacs to within nine points late in the first half, but that was as close as Wake would make it the rest of the way.
Wilbekin finished with 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting, and Mitoglou tossed in 11 as well, going a perfect 5-for-5 from the foul stripe.
Six Deacs hit double figures, led by sophomore forward John Collins, who had 17 on 8-of-13 shooting. He also has a team-high six rebounds and three blocked shots.
“You take the loss in stride,” Collins said. “You analyze your mistakes and you analyze your positives. You try to improve for the next game.”
Sophomore point guard Bryant Crawford sat the final 12 minutes of the first half after picking up two personal fouls, but finished with 12 points and four assists.
Austin Arians hit another early 3-pointer, and finished with 12 points on 3-of-7 shooting behind the arc.
Offensively, the Deacs were efficient, hitting 50 percent of their shots, shooting 38.1 percent behind the arc and hitting 11-of-13 from the free throw line. They turned the ball over just four times.
“And it’s a beatdown,” Manning said. “Those numbers are pretty good, but it was a beatdown of a game when you look at the boxscore.”
The problem was defense and rebounding. The Wildcats consistently made the extra pass to find the open man and rebounded their misses. They hit over 51 percent from behind the arc and nearly 58 percent from the field, while outrebounding the Deacs by 10 (34-24).
“You give them credit. They went and got 11 second-chance points,” Manning said. “You’d like to think if you play good first-shot defense and they miss the shot you’d be able to come away with a rebound, but we weren’t able to do that enough.”
By the first media timeout of the second half, the Deacs had hit 4-of-5 shots while Nova advanced the lead from 10 to 17 (62-45). A John Collins layup got the Deacs to winthin 12 at 87-75 with 3:55 left, but the Wildcats outscored them 9-2 down the stretch for the final margin.
“There are a lot of things we need to work on,” Manning said. “I think we’ll continue to work hard, but we have to get better. We’ve got to make a conscious effort of having that mentality in practice and in games.
“We lost the game by 20. It’s a loss. It’s a bad loss, because in our eyes we thought we should have played better.”
Hart hit 11-of-14 from the field and was 6-of-8 from the 3-point line as he dropped 30 points on the Deacs.
The Deacs will play the loser of tonight’s matchup between UCF and Charleston at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Third-Place game of the Charleston Classic.