Wake bounces back after break
By David Shaw
WINSTON-SALEM — No team goes from hot to cold and back again faster than Wake Forest.
The Demon Deacons turned that trick Friday night when they rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit and beat visiting Richmond 72-59.
“We definitely can play inconsistent basketball at times,” freshman L.D. Williams said after Wake (7-4) earned its second win this week. “The thing is, we always expect to win.”
It was Williams, a 6-foot-4 guard with a 150-watt smile, who fueled this recovery effort. He shot 5-for-7 from the field and scored 14 of his season-high 16 points in the second half.
“He hadn’t had an offensive explosion recently,” coach Skip Prosser said. “We’ve had only one consistent scorer (senior Kyle Visser). That’s a tough way to win. You really need two or three, but maybe this is what we’re gonna be.”
Whatever they are, they weren’t very good in the first half.
Richmond (4-6) routinely penetrated for layups and short-range baskets. The Spiders — one of the better teams out of the Atlantic 10 Conference — shot 60 percent from the floor, outrebounded Wake 27-23 and owned a 35-22 lead after 20 minutes.
“In the first half we were able to defend them and run our offense,” said third-year coach Chris Mooney, a Princeton graduate and former Air Force coach. “We resisted them for as long as we could, but they turned up the heat in the second half.
“I don’t think we completely caved in. We just didn’t put up enough resistance.”
Wake’s comeback began with bang-bang layups by Michael Drum and Williams early in the second half. With 16 minutes to play Visser took a feed from Ishmael Smith and scored on an industrial-strength dunk to cut Richmond’s lead to 41-36.
“It all began with defense,” Williams said after Wake forced the Spiders into 23 turnovers. “That’s always our starting point.”
Williams, a Yadkinville native who has averaged about seven points a game, was the finisher. His 3-pointer from the left corner helped Wake regain the lead with 12:26 remaining. A minute later he yanked down an offensive rebound and hit a putback, giving the Deacs a 46-45 edge they never relinquished.
“He was the spark we needed in the second half,” said Visser, a 6-11 senior who contributed a team-best 17 points but only two rebounds. “Our defense always leads to our offense, and he got it going. He really knows the game and came out and showed it tonight.”
The play-of-the-game came with six minutes to go, when Williams stole the ball in the Richmond end, drove down the lane and dunked the ball for a
61-49 Wake Forest lead.
“I haven’t been playing well lately,” said Williams, a starter in each of Wake’s 11 games. “I’ve been kind of iffy. After our (four-game) losing streak I had to look in the mirror. I had to have a heart-to-heart with myself.”
So did his teammates. Wake shot 62.5 percent from the field in the second half and finished 27-for-52 (52 percent).
“As long as I’ve been doing this, I don’t think I’ve had a team look so somnolent in the first half and come back to win,” Prosser said. “But those are the perils of not playing with great emotion and great energy.”
NOTES: Freshman guard Ishmael Smith shot 6-for-7 from the field and netted 13 points, giving the Deacs three scorers in double figures. … Wake is idle until next Friday, when it visits South Florida, a team Richmond beat 56-46 earlier this month. … Because of the Orange Bowl, Wake’s Jan. 2 home game against East Carolina has been moved to Jan. 1 at 2 p.m.
Contact David Shaw at email@example.com.