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November 5, 2009

A winning exhibition

Thursday night's exhibition against IUP went about the way you hope most exhibitions go. Uneventful, no injuries, and a victory for the home team, in this case 88-57 in favor of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

There were some highlights, such as 24 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists from Al-Farouq Aminu, and also some lowlights, like Ishmael Smith's 2-8 shooting night and the team's 21 turnovers. But in the end Wake had a pretty convincing victory over a team that kept a game close with Maryland just a few days ago.

Wake started slowly, missing their first five three point attempts and not getting much separation from IUP.

"In the beginning of the game we were just settling," explained head coach Dino Gaudio. "We were rushing a little bit. That's natural the first time you're out there in front of the people."

In the final five minutes of the first half the offense started clicking, making three of its last four three point attempts and doing a good job working the ball inside. At halftime Aminu already had 18 points and nine rebounds and Wake led 42-26.

Wake continued to look comfortable in the second half and extended their lead. Eleven different players played at least 11 minutes in the game, meaning plenty of players got to show their stuff. Aminu and Chas McFarland were most impressive, each contributing a double-double, while the rest of the team spread the scoring around pretty evenly.

"I thought that game was a good game for us," said Gauido. "I thought we did some things really well. We guarded pretty well in the first half; that's got to be a staple for us. We did a pretty good job on the backboard. I'm really happy for a lot of guys that worked their tails off over the summer shooting the ball. We shoot 8-19 for threes. 21 assists is really good for us, on the negative side however 21 turnovers is not very good."

Turnovers were definitely an issue, caused mostly by players attempting to dribble into the middle of tightly packed defense without looking for help. Aminu and Smith each had four turnovers while Ty Walker, C.J. Harris, and Tony Woods each had three.

"Our big guys have to understand that you've got to be very judicious with the dribble because you're in a crowd. They'll learn that. Big guys need room to operate and they've got to learn to operate in a crowd. Hopefully tonight was a good lesson for that."

Wake fans also got their first look at a trio of newcomers. Freshman C.J. Harris contributed six points and four assists, but Ari Stewart only had four points and three rebounds. He didn't shoot very well, going two of seven from the field and 0-2 from beyond the arc.

Konner Tucker may have looked the best of the three, scoring six points on 3-3 free throw shooting and looking very scrappy on defense.

"It was good for them to get in there," said Gaudio. "Konner Tucker did a great job for us. When they're there he has to make open shots, and he did, and then he got fouled and made free throws. C.J. has been a pleasant surprise all preseason. He's done very well. Ari struggled a little bit but we're really excited about his athleticism."

IUP's head coach Joe Lombardi may have had the quote that summed up the night for Wake better than anything else.

"They're whole may be greater than their parts," he explained. "Watching tape from last year, I'm not sure that was always the case."


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