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February 16, 2010Three quarters of the way through tonight's basketball game against Virginia Tech it looked like this article would be about the dominance of Al-Farouq Aminu and the impressive job Wake Forest did on the road to stretch their win streak to five. The Hokies, however, had very different ideas, quickly closing Wake Forest's 11 point lead and dominating the final four minutes of play to send the Demon Deacons home with a disappointing 87-83 loss.
It's almost too stunning to believe. Although Virginia Tech had a couple small stretches of good play in the first half, Wake Forest, and specifically Aminu, dominated every aspect of the game. Towards the end of the first half Wake stretched the lead to double digits. Aminu continued to score baskets, finishing the half with 21 points.
The second half started in much the same way the first ended. Wake continued to outpace the Hokies, this time with Ishmael Smith and L.D. Williams leading the way. In fact, despite the fact that Aminu had 21 in the first half, he did not manage to eclipse his career high of 26 points due to a lackluster second half performance.
The key for Virginia Tech appeared to be a switch they made to a zone defense with about 12 minutes left in the game. Wake held a 61-50 lead at the time, yet four minutes later at the 8:30 mark the game was tied. Wake held their last lead at 72-71 with just over five minutes remaining. Virginia Tech would outscore the Deacs 16-11 to finish the game, thanks to excessive fouls, turnovers, and missed shots on the part of Wake.
It has to be one of the most disappointing losses of Wake's season. All year long Wake has been able to close out victories; even when opponents make a late run Wake has been able to fight through and earn close victories. Tonigh, with Aminu struggling down the stretch, Chas McFarland on the bench having fouled out, and no one but L.D. Williams shooting well from outside, it just wasn't meant to be.
As a result Wake's time in the top 25 will likely come to an end at the end of the week. Even a potential win over NC State on Saturday won't be able to keep them in that top 25.
The biggest concern I have for Wake coming out of this loss is not the direct impact of another loss in Wake's record, but the potential long-term emotional damage it could cause the team. They have had to face a loss quite like this yet this season, and they need to be able to put it behind them and focus on the next opponent right away.
That's exactly what cost the Deacs last season, and they need to avoid it this year. In the long run this loss doesn't have to have a big imact on Wake's season. The only way it really does is if Wake lets it affect the way they play in future games.
The game was firmly in their grasp but unfortunately slipped away. A bunch of small mistakes down the stretch ultimately added up to a crushing defeat. Will wake be able to rebound? We'll find out on Saturday.