Wake Forest-High Point Preview
Dec. 6, 2011
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Last week was an exhausting one for the Wake Forest men's basketball team, as the Demon Deacons played three games in as many states in just a six day span. Now, with final exams coming up, the Demon Deacons will suit up away from Winston-Salem twice more before getting an eight day respite between competitions.
Wednesday night won't find the team far from home, however, as the Deacs will hop on U.S. Highway 311 for about a 30 minute commute over to Triad-rival High Point University for a 7:00 p.m. tip.
High Point's Millis Center, which seats 1,750, will be the smallest venue Wake has entered since the 1950's and all but guarantees the Deacs will play in front of one of the paltriest crowds in program history. Even if High Point sells the game out, Wake will play in front of its smallest true road audience since Nov. 30, 1973 when the Deacs traveled to Houston, Texas to face Rice University.
"We know that they're going to come out with a lot of energy. They pack their house and we need to come out firing early so they don't get on us," said freshman guard Chase Fischer. "This is going to be a big game for them."
Nevertheless, the Deacons lead the all-time series 12-1 and have not lost to HPU since the 1934-35 season in a game that produced 32 total points (a 19-13 Panther victory). This year's version of the Panthers has lost two straight and produced a 2-5 record so far, but the Panthers will be hosting an ACC team for the first time in school history and will likely be revved up at the chance to face Wake Forest at home.
"I expect a highly energized High Point team that is hungry, desperate and thrilled to have us in their gym," head coach Jeff Bzdelik said.
Leading the charge for the Panthers will be senior guard Nick Barbour, a scoring machine who recently moved into seventh place all-time in HPU history for career points (1,601). The man he passed, Orlando "Tubby" Smith, will be in attendance on Wednesday to be honored for his standout career at High Point. Smith has since moved on to become a three-time national coach of the year and is currently the head coach of the men's basketball team at the University of Minnesota.
Barbour, a 2010-11 Second Team All-Big South selection, leads HPU with 16.1 points per game and 23 makes (.442 percent) from beyond the arc. The senior is a dynamic scoring guard that could present problems in front of what should be a raucous, albeit small, home crowd.
"We played him last year and he's very explosive as a scorer," Bzdelik said. "He scores in a variety of ways. He can shoot the three ball and he drives it hard. He only has six assists, so he isn't passing. He's looking to score and I believe he's going to look to put on a show."
Junior Corey Law is also coming off a career performance with 21 points and 15 rebounds in HPU's Big South opener, a 72-62 setback against Campbell. The forward ranks first on the team with 9.7 rebounds per game and is the Panthers' second-leading scorer at 12.9 points per game. Senior guard Shay Shine averages double figures for HPU as well at 11.9 points per game.
After coming out flat in the first half on Saturday against Richmond, the Deacons rallied from a 23 point deficit to close to within four points before eventually falling, 70-62. Bzdelik said he would like to see the kind of energy that led to a huge comeback effort on Wednesday night.
"In order for this basketball team to put itself in a position to win, they need to have a desperate sense of urgency every time they step on the court," Bzdelik said. "We put closure on the Richmond game with edits of good things they did and why those good things happened - and things that were poorly done and why those things happened. They learned from that game. A loss is only a loss if you don't truly learn something from it. We had a good, spirited practice yesterday."
The Wake Forest series with High Point dates back to 1925-26, but the two schools have only met three times in the past 64 seasons - including each of the past two. The Deacs have won those three meetings by a combined 83 points.
Richmond, Va. native Travis McKie led WFU with 25 points on Saturday versus his hometown team, the Spiders, and became the first Deacon to make 10 field goals in regulation since James Johnson went 12-for-16 against NC State on Feb. 26, 2009.
The Millis Center, home to HPU basketball and volleyball, seats 1,750 and is the smallest venue Wake Forest has appeared at since the 1950's.