After another losing season, Wake turns focus to future
While Wake Forest's record got worse during Danny Manning's second season, the Demon Deacons insist they're still in good shape to succeed in the future.
Still, nobody is remotely close to being happy with the proud program's disappointing results that included the first 20-loss season since 2011,its fifth losing season in six years and a midyear 11-game losing streak that drained the life out of a promising start.
Wake Forest (11-20) closed the year Tuesday with a 75-72 loss to North Carolina State in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in Washington.
The Demon Deacons dropped 15 of their final 16 games with the only victory in that span coming against a Boston College team that went winless in league play and set an ACC record with 25 losses.
''Obviously, we have a lot of work to do,'' Manning said. ''I do like the foundation that we have in place with our young players. ... Moving forward, next year everyone that will be a member of our team we'll have for at least two years. We're excited about the prospect of that.''
Next year's senior class will include two players - both of whom came to campus as walk-ons - and Manning hopes the freshmen and sophomores on this team will be the ones to finally get things turned back around.
Bryant Crawford showed flashes as a freshman, averaging 13.8 points while showing little fear of taking big shots, while John Collins and 7-foot-1 Doral Moore were promising in the post.
''I wish the outcome was better and I could have sent the seniors off in a better fashion than we did,'' Crawford said.
It's a bitter way for four-year starters Devin Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre to go out. They were brought to campus by Jeff Bzdelik, endured three losing seasons and the transition to Manning and never played in a national postseason tournament game.
Thomas leaves as the program's fourth-leading rebounder with 1,061 while Miller-McIntyre was eighth with 441 assists.
''We've come in with a mind-set since freshman year to stay no matter what, and that's a pact that me and him made together,'' Miller-McIntyre said of Thomas. ''Even with the coaching staff change, we made a decision. We said, `If you leave, I leave. If you stay, I stay.' We decided to stay here. It's been tough, but at the same time I can't think of anybody else I'd want to go through the last four years with.''
A year after going 13-19 in Manning's first season, Wake Forest finished nine games under .500 for its first 20-loss season since the 2010-11 group went 8-24 in Bzdelik's first year.
For now they'll have to once again be content with a few memorable victories and the close calls that followed.
The Demon Deacons were penciled in as an NCAA Tournament contender following their wins over then-No. 13 Indiana and UCLA in the Maui Invitational, and a victory over Ben Simmons and LSU on their home floor on Dec. 29.
They only won twice after that. They let an 18-point lead slip away in a loss to No. 6 Xavier, they fell in double overtime at Pittsburgh and they were competitive in an eight-point loss at Duke - the closest they've coming to winning at Cameron Indoor Stadium since 1997.
But the ultimate gut-punch came Jan. 26 against Virginia, when they blew a seemingly insurmountable 10-point lead with under 90 seconds left and lost on a banked-in shot at the buzzer.
''We were getting beat every road game by 20 or 30 points. Now we're going into (Duke) and competing,'' Miller-McIntyre said. ''Definitely, I believe with the freshmen that are here and with the sophomores having another year under their belt that the program is definitely going in the right direction.''
AP Sports Writer Steven Whyno in Washington contributed to this report.
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