RICHMOND, Va. — John Collins is Phil Connors, the TV weatherman played by Bill Murray who attacks the same day over and over in Groundhog Day until he finally gains self-realization to finds happiness.
The self-realization for Wake Forest sophomore forward Collins is easy to determine — stay out of foul trouble.
The happiness that will result? Lots of stat stuffing and a bunch of wins for the Deacs.
But Saturday, Wake (6-2) found a way to grab the 75-67 win at Richmond (4-4) despite Collins playing just 19 minutes.
“Tonight we were very fortunate to come away with the win. I thought we had contributions from a lot of guys across the board,” Wake coach Danny Manning said. “I’m very happy with the win. To win this game on the road with him only playing 19 minutes is really big for our team.”
Collins sat the final 7:32 of the first half after picking up his second personal foul, and missed eight more minutes after picking up foul number three with 18:47 left in the game.
“He’s fouling. It’s plain and simple. It’s not the first time,” Manning said. “He got to get better at it. You’re going to pick up fouls playing, especially in the post with the contact and body-bumping. You just can’t pick up the nonchalant silly reach-in. Now, all the sudden you get a legit one added with the ticky-tack on, that’s two and you have to sit down the rest of the half.”
The 19 minutes Collins played was productive, however, as he finished with a team-high 16 points on 8-of-12 shooting and 13 rebounds. He had notched his double-double before completing his 14th minute of play.
“I’d like to play him more than 19 minutes a game,” Manning said. “But we have to continue to work and get better defensively.”
Imagine the potential bulging numbers if he could stay on the floor.
Collins has earned three or more fouls now in six of his eight games this season. This is the second time this year that foul trouble has kept him under 20 minutes played in a game. He also sat the final seven-plus minutes of the first half Monday at Northwestern, as the Cats topped Wake 65-58.
Collins set the tone early on the boards and the Deacs had a double-digit rebounding cushion established in the first eight minutes. A Bryant Crawford steal was punctuated by a lob dunk by Collins to give the Deacs a 16-7 lead.
Crawford rebounded from his nine-turnover performance against Northwestern, contributing 10 assists, seven rebounds, eight points and three steals.
“It was a bounce back game for him, and that’s a nice stat line to see from him,” Manning said. “He’s still learning and still getting better. We’ll keep him humble. He’s still averaging five turnovers over the last two games.”
A scoreless stretch of nearly three minutes ended with a pair of made free throws by Dinos Mitoglou to give Wake an 18-11 lead with 7:27 left in the first half, just a few seconds after Collins went to the Demon Deacon bench with his second personal foul.
Mitoglou finished with 11 points and eight boards, shooting 3-for-5 from the field and 5-of-6 from the foul stripe.
“I thought Dinos did a good job in that stretch (without Collins). We were able to post him up,” Manning said. “I thought all of our big guys did a good job with some of those hodge-podge lineups we had out there.”
A Grant Golden 3-pointer brought the Spiders to within 2 at the break at 32-30.
Mitchell Wilbekin splashed a 3-pointer to give Wake a 37-33 lead right before Collins came out with his third foul early in the second half.
Austin Arians and reserve forward Greg McClinton sparked the Deacs during Collins time on the bench, as Wake built the lead to nine at 50-41. Arians finished with 15 points on 3-of-9 shooting behind the arc while going a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line.
“I thought it was a game where he contributed in a lot of different areas,” Manning said about Arians.
McClinton helped check Richmond’s do-everything guy T.J. Cline, but also grabbed four key rebounds and scored four points. Three of McClinton’s rebounds were on the offensive glass, included a free throw rebound where he somehow got to the rim unchecked.
“I thought Greg was really, really huge for us,” Manning said. “He came in and gave us good energy. He got three offensive rebounds. He did a good job with Cline, making him work. You’re not going to stop him (Cline), but we wanted to make it harder on him and Greg was good in that role.”
Richmond’s Cline was guarded by a variety of Deacs, including Collins, Arians, McClinton. Mitoglou and Woods, but still finished with 20 points, six rebounds and eight assists.
“We’re happy we won the game, but we didn’t slow him down or stop him by any means,” Manning said.
The Deacs were able to maintain the lead and close out the Spiders despite having their worst shooting day of the season behind the arc (16.7%, 4-of-24) and having missed 11 foul shots (21-for-32).
“We feel like we have guys that can score inside, some guys that are good in the in-between game and then we have guys that can make shots, though we didn’t make them tonight,” Manning said. “Some of those we just have to jump up and knock them down. But it’s good balance to know we can play inside-out and that’s how we want to play. We got good looks, but just didn’t knock them down.”
Wake hosts Charlotte (5-2) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Joel Coliseum, before venturing out for the final two road non-conference games of the season — at UNC-Greensboro and at Xavier.