Forward Travis Wear didn’t play poorly in his first start for No. 24 North Carolina.
The freshman scored a career-high 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting, snared six rebounds and even managed to dish out one assist.
But it was the zero in the block column of his stat line where the player he replaced, Ed Davis, was missed the most Wednesday.
“Everybody knows how good Ed is and all the things he does for this team,” forward Deon Thompson said. “It definitely doesn’t help when you don’t have Ed out there.”
Without the 6-10 sophomore’s lengthy arms to deter shorter players from driving to the basket, 6-foot point guard Ishmael Smith consistently found room to slash to the basket on his way to scorching the Tar Heels for 20 points.
And on a night in which Wake Forest drilled nine of its 16 shots from the three-point line in its 82-69 win against UNC, only three of Smith’s points came from behind the arc.
“I think Ed would have disrupted some of Ishmael’s shots when they went through the lane,” Wear said. “He would have given us a greater rebounding presence inside and would also have been a strong presence on the offensive end.”
Davis, who leads UNC in blocked shots and rebounding, didn’t play due to a sprained ankle he sustained in Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech.
While coach Roy Williams said Davis probably could have played hurt, he opted to hold him out as a precaution because UNC has six days of rest before its next game.
“He told me yesterday he was about 65 percent, and I didn’t think it was right to play him unless he could tell me he was at 90 percent,” Roy Williams said. “I said, ‘Give me a percentage,’ and he said, ‘About 80, 85.’
“I was afraid if I played him and he sprained it again, it would be one of those nagging things.”
And with Williams’ decision to play it safe, Davis traded in his jersey and a spot on the court for a suit and a seat on the bench.
UNC missed him in a physical game under the basket.
Wake Forest grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, and two Demon Deacons notched double figures in rebounding.
Al-Farouq Aminu, the conference’s leading rebounder, took advantage of Davis’ absence on the Demon Deacons’ first possession.
After a missed Wake Forest 3-pointer, Aminu muscled Thompson out of the way for position on the rebound, which he grabbed and quickly turned into two points.
UNC could have also used him to cure some of its cold shooting on the offensive end. The Tar Heels shot just 36.6 percent for the game without Davis, who shoots an ACC-best 59 percent from the field.
But while Davis’ absence was missed by UNC’s players, several echoed similar sentiments about how the team should have responded without him.
“Coach Williams wouldn’t give out 13 scholarships if we couldn’t play. We all should have pulled together and made the difference ourselves,” forward Will Graves said.
“It would have been great to have had Ed, he’s one of my best friends on the team, but come game time, you’ve got to bring it.”
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