Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Manning expects rambunctious crowd at Xavier

Yes, there are other topics in Wake athletics aside from WakeyLeaks. The basketball Deacs have a big opportunity today at Xavier.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Danny Manning has scheduled aggressively this season, looking for his Deacs (8-2) to be firmly tested as they barrel into ACC play.

They face one of their stiffer tests of the season at 8 p.m. tonight when they tip it off at No. 17 Xavier (8-2).

We spoke with Manning after practice Wednesday to get his thoughts on the matchup.  

On what he expects to see Saturday at Xavier

Manning: “This will be the most rambunctious crowd we’ve played in front of on the road all year. They do a great job with creating a really good home court advantage. They’re a talented team. (Xavier coach) Chris (Mack) always has a tough, hard-nosed team. They’re going to compete. They’re going to bring the pressure all game long, and we have to handle it. We have to rebound the basketball. We have to be strong with the basketball as well. They’re active with their hands.”

On this being the Skip Prosser Classic and the importance of the series

Manning: “I knew coach Prosser when I was playing professional basketball. My first agent lived in Cincinnati and coach Prosser would always open his gym for me to come in there with some other guys to work out. I’ve known him for a very long time. The impact and legacy that he’s left at both universities is something that will always have some type of dynamic within the programs. For me, it’s a series I’m happy, excited and proud to be a part of because of the person coach Prosser was. I think his family enjoys the series as well. Ms. Prosser comes to the games when she can, and I know that she’s supportive of both teams.”

On if there’s similarities between the two programs

Manning: “I think when you talk about the size. Being in Cincinnati, UC is the bigger school. Xavier is the small school in terms of population. You get a quality education at both schools. I do think there are some similarities in that fashion.”

On playing a top-20 team on the road

Manning: “It’s a great opportunity for us. We’ve gone on the road quite a bit this year. This is our last non-conference road game, and we feel we’ve played better at each stop. This certainly has to be our best effort.”

On the schedule with final exams this week

Manning: “This has be a schedule to-be-determined type of week. It’s based upon their exams, study groups and things of that nature. They’ve had some time off. We’ve had to adjust based upon exam schedule. When this week is all over and grades come back, we hope to get all good reports (laughs).”

On Trevon Bluiett and other Xavier players to watch

Manning: “He’s one of them. Their whole team. They play as a group. Bluiett is one that presents a lot of matchup problems because he is a big guard playing the power forward spot. He’s strong enough to guard in the post and athletic enough to switch out on guards. (Edmond) Sumner is one of the fastest guards we’re going to face this year. We got a taste of him last year. J.P. (Macura) is shooting the ball really well. Their big guys do a great job of getting to the glass and making things happen. This is a very balanced team.”

On Bluiett being the type of versatile wing that Manning likes to recruit and coach

Manning: “Absolutely. I’d love to have him, but we don’t (laughs). It’s just the way the game is being played. That’s the way it is. There aren’t too many teams that play two true bigs at the same time. I think the 3-points shot has really opened things up, and the willingness of coaches to say, ‘You know what, we need to make some 3-pointers to get to the point total we need to be successful.’ Early on, especially when I was playing, the 3-point ball was a bonus. That was a specialty spot. The distance it is now, it’s not a specialty shot. It’s a regular jump shot in the grand scheme of things. Even in the NBA, that 3-pointer is a good distance, but you have guys that can make that consistently, so it’s not a specialty shot anymore. Now in college you recruit to a specialist who’s a 3-point shooter. No different than in the NBA, where you have a couple people whose job is to make shots. It’s the way the game has evolved.”

On what he takes away from last year’s game against Xavier

Manning: “I tend to lean more on the bad parts. The biggest thing I take away from that game is we came out in the second half  — we won one half and they won one half. For us, we have to come out and put ourselves in position to win a road game. Winning on the road isn’t easy. You have to do things during the course of the game to give yourself a chance down the stretch.”

On if the road games build on each other

Manning: “If you show some development from game to game, absolutely. We know we’re a young team, and that’s not an excuse for us. We have to continue to grow. We have to continue to take steps. I thought the Northwestern game with three minutes to go, we gave ourselves a chance to win it, but we didn’t close those three minutes the way we needed to. I thought the UNCG game was tough for us, because it was so close. But I thought that we were put in situations in the game where we handled things a little bit better than we did at Northwestern. This is a game where we can’t come out and have one good half and one bad half. We have to have two good halves. That’s something we’ve talked about.”

On if you learn more from road games or against top-20 opponents

Manning: “I don’t think you necessarily learn more. I think you know what you have going into it, with the amount of time you spend with the guys. I like going on the road. I think it’s nice to go into their arenas, take your best shot and see how your team fares.”

On some on his team embracing that as well

Manning: “All competitive athletes should.”

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