Brian Westerholt

Deacs jump out early, hold on to top Xavier 58-45

Wake defeated Xavier 58-45 Thursday night at Joel Coliseum.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — After a pedestrian first half of scoring no points and grabbing just four boards, Milan Quinn got some an exquisite objective from Wake Forest head coach Jen Hoover as halftime concluded and the team took the floor.

“I need some rebounds out of you,” Hoover told Quinn.

Sometimes it’s the simplest advice that works the best.

Quinn pounded the glass in the second half, ending with a career-high 19 boards in a 58-45 Wake Forest (7-2) win over Xavier (6-1) Thursday night at Joel Coliseum.

“I’m going to tell you that every game,” Hoover said jokingly after the game to her star senior forward.

The Deacs went to war early, as they used their size advantage to dominate Xavier, outscoring them 18-2 in the first quarter.

“We really came out with the emphasis of getting after it on defense and use our length. We knew it was their first road trip, so we wanted to kind of set the tone early,” Hoover said. “I thought we were active and disruptive, which allowed us to get going in transition. We moved the basketball, got some easy shots and knocked them down.”

The Musketeers settled in and closed the deficit to 13 at the half at 29-16, but then really built momentum early in the third.

A Xavier 13-4 run to start the third quarter brought the Musketeers to within four points, and they cut it to three at 38-35 with 1:03 left in the quarter.  

“I thought we were a little flat coming out defensively in the third quarter. I thought we were a little quick to try to strike on first side. They’re a good defensive team — they lead their conference defensively,” Hoover said. “We only scored 58 points. They clogged things up and doubled the low post hard. Once we reversed the basketball and got some movement, we got a couple things going and could attack the basket a little more.”

The Deacs had surrenders a big lead at Seton Hall on Sunday, and had talked about withstanding these runs in the days following that road loss.  

“We talked about settling down. That just happened to us at Seton Hall. It was kind of reliving that experience and not doing the same things,” Hoover said. “We threw the ball all over the gym there, but today we were poised and took care of the basketball.

“We didn’t handle that scenario well. We panicked, and that’s across the board. As a coach, I probably panicked. We talked about that, and had a couple real good days of practice.”

A little more focus in the fourth quarter on both ends of the court sealed the deal for the Deacs. Quinn had nine rebounds in the quarter, and Ariel Stephenson, Elisa Penna and Amber Campbell made big shots to put the Musketeers away down the stretch.

“We made them take some tough, contested shots and she (Quinn) cleaned every board,” Hoover said.

Campbell led the Deacs with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Stephenson chipped in 17 points and added seven boards.

Hoover went with a short seven-player rotation Thursday, with Ona Udoh only playing eight minutes.

It’s not expected to get much better anytime soon. Freshman forward Tyra Whitehead didn’t play Thursday because of a coach’s decision, and is expected back Saturday when the Deacs host Radford. It’s the first game Whitehead has missed.

Sophomore point guard Kortni Simmons is out with a foot injury and is listed as day-to-day.

Senior Kelila Atkinson is still rehabbing from an ACL procedure and will be back at some point, though she has not returned to practice yet.

Destini Walker, Taylor Gordon, Jill Brunori and Raegyn Branch are all done for the season.

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