The Maui Invitational tends to bring some fun upsets, and this year is now no exception. Wake Forest defeated No. 13 Indiana 82-78 on Monday afternoon, using a 19-6 run to end the game to pull out the win.
Freshman Bryant Crawford led the way down the stretch for the Demon Deacons, making two late lay-ups to give them the lead, including this one that put them ahead for good with 3.2 seconds remaining.
Crawford scored 13 points, and big man Devin Thomas paced Wake Forest with 21. The Hoosiers were led by Williams’ 16 points, as the junior wing slashed at will into the teeth of Wake’s defense.
As you can see by that clip, the key for Indiana in this one was on defense. Throughout the game, the Hoosiers couldn’t do anything to cut off penetration, largely because their big men couldn’t defend ball-screens. Troy Williams and James Blackmon upped their defensive energy in the second half after the Demon Deacons went into halftime with a 50-45 lead, but Thomas Bryant and Max Bielfeldt were unable to match them in effectiveness.
Bryant, particularly, struggled mightily on the perimeter today after opening the season with a terrific start of 13 points and eight rebounds per contest. In the first half, Konstantinos Mitoglou gave him a ton of problems as a perimeter-oriented big man. Then, in the second half, the Hoosiers simply couldn’t contain penetration from the attacking Demon Deacons. Bryant is a legitimate NBA prospect due to his size and skill level at 18 years old, but this is the part of his game that will have to come along the furthest this season.
This is a great win for Wake Forest, who in my opinion was pretty underrated coming into the year with guys like Thomas, Mitoglou and Codi Miller-McIntyre (who is still out because of injury) around. However, the more pressing questions will obviously come more from the Indiana side, as this was a team expected to compete for the Big Ten title. It’s about as skilled an offensive team as you’ll find in the country, with four genuine NBA prospects in Bryant, Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr. and Williams. However, what can they do on defense to mitigate the problems they have?
My guess is that we’ll see a bit more zone from Indiana after seeing the way the big men defended ball screens. The roster is a bit too flawed on that end of the floor to play man full-time. You can’t take Bryant out late in games because he’s by far Indiana’s best rebounder (as Wake’s 18 offensive rebounds today, many with him out of the game, showed). But it’s also hard to leave him in, because teams will bring him away from the hoop and attack his lateral quickness. Playing zone helps to minimize the impact of that and allows Bryant to do what he’s most comfortable with defensively at this point, which is contesting shots in the lane with his 7-foot-5 wingspan.
The Hoosiers have legitimate aspirations to get to the Sweet 16 and beyond this season. But this game made one thing very clear: They need to clean up the defensive side of the floor to get there. Be it either with different man concepts or with a greater emphasis on using the zone, that’s going to be the key to their season.