WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — We’re five games into year three ACC play of the Danny Manning era of Wake Forest basketball, and everybody associated with the program is inherently sick of moral victories.
The Deacs racked another one up Wednesday night as they erased an early second-half 19-point deficit even without much of a contribution from their foul-ridden leading scorer of the season John Collins.
Wake slashed and drove to the basket repeatedly with reckless abandon, as guards Bryant Crawford, Keyshawn Woods and freshman Brandon Childress finished at the rim and at the foul stripe while piling up Tar Heel fouls.
A Woods layup with 9:43 left in the game capped a 27-9 run and brought the Deacs to within one and got the Joel Coliseum to its collective feet in joy.
But the Heels answered.
A Childress foul shot with 3:49 capped a 9-2 Wake run and got them back to within 2, once again getting the crowd to their feet ready for the big finish.
But the Heels answered yet again.
The Deacs never got over the hump. They never grabbed a lead, and the crowd at Joel Coliseum left disappointed.
Their disappointment is understandable and the deficiencies consistently exhibited by the Deacs are a concern, but their progress is also noteworthy.
The ACC is an absolute mess, but looking ahead, the Deacs might have the most navigable nine-game run in recent years.
If Manning can get his team to put together 40-minute efforts during the next month of action, they have a great chance to escape the conference basement.
The Deacs upcoming schedule? Host Miami, at NC State, at Syracuse, Duke, at Boston College, host Georgia Tech, at Notre Dame, host NC State, at Clemson.
Normally in the last couple years when you look at a nine-game conference run for the Deacs, you can point out a solid handful of near-sure losses. There aren’t many to find here, folks.
The Wolfpack? A mess. Syracuse? Up and down, but mostly down. Boston College? Deacs already beat them here at Joel Coliseum. Georgia Tech? Some projected them to not win a conference game. The toughest game is at Notre Dame, following by the Dukies coming to The Joel, and you have to believe that will be a close one.
But it all starts this week in practice as the Deacs get ready to play Miami. If they still believe in themselves and work on putting together a solid 40 minutes a week from today, there’s still a lot of season left.
Lay an egg against the Hurricane and it might be taps.