WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — At some point during an opponent’s run, your team’s ‘go to’ guy has to get a touch to stop the momentum.
That didn’t happen Saturday for the Deacs against Clemson, as Wake withered down the stretch — giving up the final 15 points unanswered to the Tigers as they left Winston-Salem delivering a potentially fatal early conference season loss.
Though he sat the final 7:04 of the first half after picking up his second personal foul, Wake sophomore forward John Collins had dominated through the first 11 minutes of the second.
With 8:49 left in the game, a Collins layup accounted for his 19th and 20th points of the game. He was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field in the second half, and the Deacs had built a comfortable 59-51 lead.
He was largely forgotten the rest of the way, finishing stuck with 20 points. Collins got just one more shot attempt and never again made it to the foul stripe.
When sophomore guard Keyshawn Woods splashed a 3-pointer with 7:01 left in the game, the Deacs held a healthy 64-51 lead and seemed well on their way to grabbing their first ACC victory of the young season.
Instead, they’re now alone at the bottom of the conference standings as the only squad with an 0-2 record.
As Clemson ran off 15 in a row for the comeback win, the Demon Deacon offense often resorted to panicked long-range attempts and rarely looked for Collins down low.
The final 15 Wake offensive possession finished with six missed 3-pointers, three turnovers, three missed inside the arc, two made baskets (Woods, Mitchell Wilbekin), and one missed front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity at the line.
A lot has to go wrong to blow such a big lead so late. A bucket. . . ANY bucket made by the Deacs during that stretch likely changes the entire complexion of that finish and assures a win.
A team has to find their go-to guy in these situations, and the Deacs didn’t do that.
Who’s to blame? It may be easier to determine who’s not to blame in this one.
There were rushed shots and bad passes, but even Collins isn’t innocent.
His laid-back demeanour is one of his most endearing qualities, but there are times he needs to be more demonstrative. Collins must establish strong position down low and demand his teammates find him when they need to squash an uprising like this. Then when the ball isn’t tossed into him, he has to find a way to grab a board and take it back up himself.
Talking to coach Manning and the players after the game was over, they seemed to indicate they got the looks late in the game they were seeking. If so, that’s a mistake. At some point, they needed a solid paint touch.
Considered a pick ‘em game by Vegas, this became a must-win for the Deacs once the claimed a double-digit lead late in the second half. Frustration abounds, and it’s completely understandable. Losing this game in this fashion is practically unfathomable.
It’s rocked the belief of the fan base, especially when added together with other late-game collapses — most recently at Florida State earlier in the week.
It’s too early to give up on the season, however, though the cautious optimism has now clearly been flushed down the proverbial toilet.
Even without students in the mix, the last two home games for the Deacs have featured attendance around and above 10,000. The get fans back on board, Manning’s squad is probably going to have to jump out there and beat someone they aren’t expected.
Before that, however, they will have to defend their home turf against Boston College, who just shocked the conference with their first ACC win in nearly two years Sunday over Syracuse.