Wake Forest (1-1) vs. Iona (1-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 17, 5 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: UVI Sports & Fitness Center (3,500) -- St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Television: None. Home Record: Wake Forest 1-0, Iona 0-0. Away Record: Wake Forest 0-0, Iona 0-0. Neutral Record: Wake Forest 0-1, Iona 0-0. Conference Record: Wake Forest 0-0, Iona 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Iona Gaels and Wake Forest Demon Deacons will both be out for redemption when they square off in the third round of the 2012 Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Saturday evening.
Coach Tim Cluess guided the Gaels to back-to-back 25-win seasons in his first two years at the helm. There is skepticism as to whether Iona will continue that success without former star Scott Machado, but the 2012-13 season got off to a solid start as the team took down Denver for a 65-58 victory at home. Iona was close to improving to 2-0 on Friday when it squared off with Quinnipiac in the first round of this event, but a late attempt to tie the game and force overtime turned out to be all for naught as Cluess and his squad found itself trailing, 98-92 at the end of the extra session. Despite allowing nearly 100 points, the Gaels were very active at the defensive end of the floor and turned 24 turnovers into 28 points in Friday's loss.
Wake Forest also fell to 1-1 on Friday when it was defeated by the No. 23 Connecticut Huskies in round one, 77-71. The Demon Deacons shot a respectable 49.1 percent from the floor, which included a 7-of-16 effort from beyond the arc, but they punished themselves with 18 turnovers and 10 missed free throws. Wake Forest opened the 2012-13 campaign with a 79-67 triumph over Radford at home. Coach Jeff Bzdelik's team may have come up short on Friday, but a close loss to the nationally-ranked Huskies is a great sign for a program that finished last season with a 13-18 overall record.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between Wake Forest and Iona in men's basketball.
It was clear that someone would have to step up to help the Gaels replace the production that was lost with the graduations of Machado and leading scorer Mike Glover. Lamont Jones refused to let a lack of offensive production hold his team back on Friday, as he went off for 40 points versus Quinnipiac. The senior guard went 13-of-28 from the field and hit the game-tying three-pointer with just two seconds left in regulation to force overtime. Juniors Sean Armand and Tre Bowman both got into the mix as well by scoring 18 and 15 points, respectively. Senior forward Taaj Ridley and sophomore guard Tavon Sledge appear to be filling in well as role players. Ridley is not a big-time threat on offense, but he is a strong interior defender and managed to pull down a team-high nine rebounds (five on the offensive glass) in Friday's loss. Sledge handed out a team-best five assists and contributed in the rebounding effort as well with seven boards.
The Demon Deacons struggled last season despite having a formidable one-two punch in junior forward Travis McKie and senior guard C.J. Harris running the show. Harris averaged 16.7 ppg a year ago, followed closely by McKie's 16.1 ppg. The duo did not disappoint in the first round of this event, as Harris scored 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor and McKie posted 16 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes of action. Wake Forest also added a few top- tier recruits in Codi Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas. Miller-McIntyre had a humble 10-point performance in the season opener, but the Hargrave Military Academy alum burst onto the scene on Friday with team-highs of 21 points (9- of-16 FG), five assists, and 35 minutes played. Thomas added seven points and seven rebounds in his first action against a ranked opponent.
Wake Forest is clearly trying to climb up the ACC ladder to where it resided when Chris Paul sported a black and gold uniform. The Demon Deacons may not be quite at that level just yet, but they have a great nucleus with Harris, McKie and Miller-McIntyre. Although Jones's 40-point outing for Iona on Friday was nothing short of sensational, the Gaels will need a more balanced effort to knock off the Demon Deacons in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wake Forest 86, Iona 80
11/17 10:33:13 ET