WINSTON-SALEM – As ACC play began in earnest, Wake Forest reminded everyone that it's a very young and streaky team.
During the previous month, in a string of six straight victories at home, the Demon Deacons actually looked like a team that might be able to slide itself into the NCAA Tournament.
Wake looked like a real basketball team, doing a lot of things right in running its record to 11-3. Without many dominating teams in the league, a finish such as 8-7, for a 19-10 regular-season record, didn't seem out of line.
Then Wake failed to show up on the road against Boston College. The 112-73 blowout was the Deacons' fourth loss in five road games.
The game brought back the worst of Wake's tendencies: lack of an inside presence, 23.5 percent three-point shooting, 56.3 percent shooting from the foul line, 16 turnovers to 11 assists, allowing 66.1 percent shooting. Most important, an overall lack of intensity doomed the Deacons.
"They wanted it more," freshman forward James Johnson said.
While that may have been true, that is something that should never be said about a team. It was something that hadn't been evident in the homestand, as Wake consistently played hard.
Wake's defense was particularly appalling against BC, allowing 112 points after giving up more than 75 only once (83 against Vanderbilt) all season. The last time the Deacs gave up 100 points to an unranked opponent in regulation and lost was on Feb. 10, 1973, when they lost at Virginia 104-73.
This came to a BC team that had scored 57 points in its previous game, against Robert Morris.
The Deacons really have improved on defense in Dino Gaudio's first year as head coach.
Under the late Skip Prosser, Wake was not known for defense. Prosser's six teams allowed opponents to shoot 43.4 percent from the field. Take out the one good defensive team (2003), and that number jumps to 44.1.
Through the 14 games before BC, Wake allowed 39.5 percent shooting. That didn't all come against cupcakes, either. The Deacons held BYU to 35.9 percent, South Florida to 34.5, Charlotte to 38.7 and Iowa to 38.
Wake also led the ACC in turnovers forced at 20.1 per game, with almost half of those coming on steals. Freshman guard Jeff Teague led the ACC in steals with 2.7 per game. This is a key to Wake's offense, as it can get easy baskets.
But if Wake hopes to not come apart down the stretch, it again will need to find that kind of intensity on the defensive end, especially on the road without the crowd to help push it.
It will need more consistent shooting, especially from three-point range. Wake took strides in December, going 9-of-23 against South Florida and 14-of-25 versus Air Force. But the Deacs remain the ACC's worst long-range shooters.
If you can't score from the outside, it would be nice if you could score from the inside. There, too, Wake must find some consistency.
One game, center Chas McFarland looks as if he's arrived. The next game, he looks as if he doesn't know where he's going. In the first 15 games, McFarland had eight games of eight or more points. He also had four games of either two or zero points. Backup David Weaver has not been able to provide any consistency off the bench.
So which team will it be – the NCAA dreamer or the BC clunker? Gaudio must focus on the basics: defense and running a solid offense to create shots in the flow. His young players must focus on maturing quickly, bringing the same level of intensity every night.
ANDREWS STORY ENDED WITH TD
If all you saw of the Micah Andrews saga this year was Andrews scoring in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, you didn't get the whole picture.
In fact, Andrews' reaction to that score – despite being nationally celebrated as a touching moment – told the real truth of his struggles with the coaching staff this season.
Andrews entered 2007 as Wake's No. 1 back. He was coming off a knee injury that wiped out almost all of his 2006 season, but he was Wake's most accomplished returning back. As a freshman and sophomore backing up Chris Barclay, Andrews averaged 5.8 yards per carry.
But very quickly, redshirt freshman Josh Adams established himself as a threat. Andrews didn't appear to have the same burst after his injury, and Adams popped into holes and showed some breakaway speed.
By the fourth game, Adams began to get more carries. In the sixth game, Florida State, he took over. Although Andrews had 20 carries to Adams' 18, Andrews gained 64 yards to Adams' 150, including an 83-yard flash down the sideline.
In the final six regular-season games, Adams carried 129 times, and Andrews slipped to 40 carries.
Andrews did a good job of handling the situation publicly. To the media, he praised Adams and never complained about his lack of playing time. Inside, however, he seethed, and sometimes that came out with his teammates. He pulled away, wasn't always a positive force, didn't celebrate successes.
Against North Carolina, in the eighth game, his frustrations did come out. Midway through the third quarter, Andrews did the heavy lifting on a drive that led to a field goal, carrying five times for 43 yards.
Wake's next possession came after Kevin Marion returned a kickoff to the UNC 14. Andrews trotted onto the field and into the huddle. Before the play, Adams came running on the field, sending Andrews to the sideline.
Andrews was clearly unhappy, throwing a small tantrum. He stormed to the far end of the bench, talking to no one but demonstratively showing his frustration. Adams scored on the first play and eventually went over and talked with Andrews on the sideline. A few moments later, running backs coach Billy Mitchell spoke with him briefly.
Andrews didn't see many meaningful carries the rest of the year, but he got a chance to help Wake run out the clock in Charlotte. Even then, things didn't go smoothly.
With 2:41 left, Andrews replaced Adams on Wake's final drive. He broke off a 30-yard run and came to the sidelines as Adams returned. Andrews celebrated – mostly by himself – on the sideline, including pointing to himself several times.
Wake called timeout after the run, though, and the coaching staff found Andrews and put him back in. He carried three straight times, finishing with a nine-yard touchdown.
As he popped up in the end zone, he actually pushed away some teammates, including receiver Kenny Moore. He raced toward the stands behind the Wake bench to find his family.
"I had one agenda, and that was to get over to my family, my mother, my grandfather and my brother," Andrews said. "It wasn't my agenda to hug a fan, hug a teammate, hug a coach.
"This season has been trying for me, up and down and very emotional, and they held me steady the whole time. I needed to tell them how much I love them at that point of glory."
Andrews later talked with teammates and shared a brief hug with Grobe.
After the game, he gave a hint as to another reason why he was frustrated – not just because of what he missed this season, but because of what he might miss in the future.
"I hope people saw that I am ready and I'm capable of doing things I was capable of two years ago," he said. "I hope people see it on the next level and see it's not over."
For now, it is over for Andrews at Wake, and it was a trying final season for both the player and his coaches.