Conway, S. C., November 18, 2018 – A mental mistake in the final seconds of the first half could have led to a second-half collapse by Wake Forest. Instead the Demons Deacons “showed some grit” according to head coach Danny Manning and emerged with a 69-63 victory over Valparaiso to claim fifth place in the Myrtle Beach Invitational.
Trailing 33-26, Valpo scored four points in the final two seconds of the first half by making a pair of free throws off a flagrant foul, then getting the ball back and hitting an open layup at the buzzer. The Crusaders (2-2) then scored six consecutive points to open the second half, giving them a 36-33 lead.
Wake (3-1) could have let the game slip away at that point, especially considering the team has nine players who are either freshmen or sophomores. Instead, the Deacons immediately responded with a 12-4 run to take a 45-40 lead, and they never trailed again.
“That’s a mistake that should never happen,” Manning said of allowing the open layup at the end of the half. “That gave Valpo some energy and momentum. But for a team with as little experience as we have, the guys continued to fight. That’s our mantra: win the fight.”
Valpo junior center Derrik Smits, son of former NBA player Rik Smits, led all scorers with 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting. But the Crusaders were unable to overcome a poor performance from 3-point range (4-for-19).
“I don’t know if fatigue caused us to miss shots, but the ball just didn’t go in,” Valpo coach Matt Lottich said. “This is a game we could have won, but we’ll learn from it.”
Freshman forward Jaylen Hoard was one of four Wake players to score in double figures, finishing with 16 points and 10 rebounds.