A blessing for Wake Forest’s Childress

Anaheim, Calif., Nov. 29, 2019 – Brandon Childress is in his fourth season at Wake Forest and finally, he can point out a momentous event in his career.

“It’s a blessing as my first time playing in a championship in college,” Childress said.

The senior guard scored 18 points and Wake Forest choked off any notions of a comeback down the stretch as the Demon Deacons scored an 88-75 victory over Long Beach State Friday to reach the championship of the Wooden Legacy at the Anaheim Arena.

Wake Forest (5-2) will meet Arizona Sunday for the title in the tournament that honors legendary coach John Wooden.

Demon Deacons coach Danny Manning, the first Wooden Award winner to coach in the tournament, will take his team to Disneyland Saturday before they play in the 6 p.m. final the following day.

“We’re excited,” Manning said. “That’s always the goal. We came out with the goal to win this thing and we’re in the situation where we have that opportunity.”

Six Demon Deacons scored in double figures, Wake Forest had 20 second-chance points to none for Long Beach and Wake Forest set a tournament record for free-throw percentage by hitting on 24 of 25 foul shots.

In the second half, Wake Forest hit 21 of 22 shots from the line, squelching any thought of some more magic from the Beach, who rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit to defeat Providence in the opener.

Center Olivier Sarr had another stellar day off the bench for Wake Forest with 16 points, eight rebounds and a block. Guard Chaundee Brown came off the bench for 13 points, including a 9-for-9 showing at the free throw line.

The teams were close throughout the first half until Wake Forest guard Andrien White beat the buzzer with a half-court heave to give the Demon Deacons a 38-31 lead at halftime.

“The one thing we did talk about was getting to the free throw line more in the second half, we were able to do that and knocked down our free throws,” Manning said. “We got contributions across the board from a lot of different guys, whether it was scoring the ball, rebounding the ball or being in the right spot at the right time.”

White finished with 12 points, guard Torry Johnson added 11 and forward Isaiah Mucius chipped in 12 as the Demon Deacons won for the third time this season despite being outshot from the field.

“The chemistry is definitely going, I was preaching that before the season,” Childress said. “The camaraderie of our team, the bonding we built over the summer, it’s just amazing to see the guys really want each other to succeed.”

Despite shooting 58 percent from the field in the second half and hitting 3 of 5 3-pointers, the Beach (3-5) could get no closer than five points in the second half.

“I like where my team is going,” Long Beach State coach Dan Monson said. “I think we’re getting better, but we weren’t good enough today. Wake Forest controlled the game pretty much. The tempo, we really couldn’t make a run because we couldn’t keep them off the foul line or off their offensive rebounds.”

Michael Carter III scored 18 points and had nine assists to lead Long Beach, which will meet Penn in the third-place game on Sunday.

Guard Chance Hunter scored 17 with five rebounds and guard Colin Slater had 15 points and three steals. The Beach had to play the second half without defensive specialist Drew Cobb, who sprained his ankle late in the first half.

Arizona 92, Penn 82 – The No. 14 Wildcats (8-0) shot 58.6 percent for the game and 62.1 percent in the second half but still couldn’t shake the Quakers (4-3) until the final moments.

Rallying back from a 17-point deficit, Penn pulled within 82-78 with 3:03 left. But a layup from Josh Green with 2:10 remaining sparked a 6-0 run to help the Wildcats pull away.

Through the first two games of the event, Arizona is shooting 59.6 percent from the field and 51.5 percent from beyond the 3-point line.

“First of all, we played a very good team tonight in Penn. They are incredibly well coached, especially offensively. We’ve given up 26 made 3s in two games, 10 in the second half today. Some of it is clearly who we’re playing, some of it is our defense. I think the early part of our season we’re only going to go as far as our defense improves.”

Freshman guard Nico Mannion scored 24 points, making 11 of 14 shots, to lead the way for Arizona, which had all five starters score in double figures. Center Chase Jeter had 19 points and six rebounds, forward Zeke Nnaji had 16 points and seven rebounds, Green had 14 and guard Dylan Smith chipped in 10.

“I was just trying to be aggressive and trying to make plays,” Mannion said. “I hit a couple and started feeling good. We were just playing well together.”
The Wildcats needed all of it even with standout forward AJ Brodeur saddled with foul trouble for Penn. Guard Jordan Dingle kept the Quakers rolling with a career-high 27 points, tying a tournament record with seven 3-pointers. Guard Ryan Betley added 20 and Brodeur, smothered at times by the taller Wildcats, had 11 points and 10 assists.

“He’s never fouled out of a game,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said of Brodeur. “He is just a very unusual player in that he is a post player who plays 30-40 minutes and doesn’t foul out yet plays hard as heck.

“The outcome is disappointing but that being said, for us to overcome that against a team like Arizona and cut it to four down the stretch, I think this team has a big ceiling that I am excited about.”

Charleston 63, Providence 55 – After a subpar game in the first round, guard Grant Riller scored 29 points and added five assists as the Cougars (4-3) moved into the fifth-place game.

It was another missed opportunity for the Friars (4-4), who lost a 17-point second-half lead in their first-round defeat and they built a 13-point lead against Charleston before the Cougars steadied themselves and held their ground in the second half.

“We were just trying to play good defense, be in position, contest every shot and then rebound the first miss,” Charleston coach Earl Grant said. “”Just trying to play Charleston basketball to the best of our ability. They showed up for that stretch. The guys bought in and responded after a tough loss yesterday.”

Riller, a 6-3 senior, made 9 of 15 shots with two 3-pointers and went 9-for-10 on the free throw line. He also had five rebounds, five assists and two steals. He had only 11 points on 5-for-13 shooting in the opening round loss to Wake Forest.

“I think it came from him and from us,” Grant said. “He had 29 points and we told him ‘Hey, you have to move the ball. People are going to jump in and be aggressive. You have to trust your team.”

Guard David Duke made 7 of 8 shots and scored 22 points to lead Providence, which shot only 25 percent from the field in the second half and 33.9 percent for the game.

“The team’s not playing the way we’re capable of,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. We have to get back to the drawing board. We have a fractured group right now and got to find a way to put the pieces back together.”

Providence, which missed 7 of its last 8 shots, will face Pepperdine on Sunday in the seventh-place game and Charleston takes on UCF for fifth place.

UCF 78, Pepperdine 65 – Two teams that were recovering from heartbreaking defeats played even until the final eight minutes, when UCF’s depth made the difference.

The Knights (4-2) broke a tie with a 13-2 run over six minutes, sparked by six points from reserve guard Ceasar DeJesus, and the Waves (3-5) could get no closer than nine points the rest of the way.

UCF will go on to face Charleston in the fifth-place game on Sunday.

Both teams played without key components for much of the first half. UCF center Collin Smith got in early foul trouble and Pepperdine forward Kameron Edwards twice had to leave with a bloody nose.

The difference came from the Knights’ bench, which picked up the slack to score 40 points. DeJesus led the charge with a game-high 21 points in 25 minutes. Guard Darin Green Jr. added 16 points and Brandon Mahan, another reserve, had 11 points and eight rebounds.

“That’s who we’ve been,” said UCF coach Johnny Dawkins, whose team lost by one point in the first round to Penn. “Our strength is in our numbers. Our guys understand that and I think they’re embracing their roles.”

Kessler Edwards, Kameron’s younger brother, had 21 points to lead Pepperdine. Kameron returned to score 12 points and Skylar Chavez had 10. The Waves’ leading scorer, guard Colbey Ross, scored only eight points but tied the tournament record with 12 assists.

“We didn’t do a very good job of keeping them in front of us, there is no doubt about that,” Pepperdine coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Give them credit, they were in attack mode. If you want to say there was an emotional game last night, maybe we were drained, well, they played too. They had an emotional loss too, so whoever was going to recover from day one was going to be the victor.”