January 4, 2013

Time to grow up

The first eight minutes of Wake Forest's (7-5) ACC opener at No. 1 Duke (13-0) may be the most important juncture of the game for this youthful Demon Deacon bunch.

Wake has been outscored by a combined 171-114 by its opponents in the first eight minutes of its 12 non-conference games.

This should not be a surprise for a team that starts three of its seven freshmen. What is more impressive the Demon Deacons have battled back to win more often than not.

"I think we just start the game sometimes just kind of looking around whatever," Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "I'm not really sure what the answer is to be honest with you and all of a sudden the light goes on and hey we got to play, let's go. They just need to know we need to improve our starts."

Bzdelik does not treat the seven newcomers as freshmen. He told them they had the summer to be freshmen, but must return as sophomores in the fall.

"They need to grow up and grow up fast," Bzdelik said. "I believe in them. They just need to believe in themselves that they can play at this level, and I think sometimes when we start the game they're just kind of not quite sure. They just need to play and believe in themselves with great conviction."

Regardless of how much they may have grown or matured nothing can quite simulate the experience of what their first ACC game will be like, much less a trip to the raucous Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday, Jan. 5 for a date with the veteran, sharp-shooting Blue Devils.

Wake is on its fourth three-game winning streak of the Bzdelik era, but has never won more than three games in a row during his tenure as head coach in Winston-Salem. Xavier is arguably the most significant in his two-and-a-half years.

Demon Deacon junior forward Travis McKie said it is a good win, but not a breakthrough victory.

"The ACC is here, and we know how that's going to be," McKie said. "We just have to get ready for that. We have to put this all behind us and get ready for Saturday."

"The real season is here now. Out of conference is done, the ACC is here and the dogs are about to come out."

Needless to say a win Saturday would be a breakthrough for Bzdelik and the Deacs.
Wake Forest freshman point guard Codi Miller-McIntyre knows a win at Duke would be huge, and that a good start to the game is important.

"It's three freshmen starting with C.J. [Harris] and Trav, so a lot of times we look to them when the game has started," Miller-McIntyre said. "We can't continue to do that. Almost every game we go down and have to fight our way back into games, but I think it's all confidence. Once we fully get our confidence up then there will be no more slow starts."

Harris added the freshmen are playing hard and fighting through adversity.

"All these guys have played in tough games," Harris said. "They've been playing games all their life, so there's really no difference. You just got to come ready to play. I think we play better when the lights are on and the team is better, so I think we'll be fine. We're going to attack. We're going to run our plays, listen to what coach is saying and we're going to do what we do."

No one likes a moral victory, but the most realistic expectation to have for Wake Forest is for this young time to compete and play hard a full 40 minutes.

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