WINSTON-SALEM- Sophomore Devin Thomas scored 21 points on 10-11 shooting and Wake Forest hit 6 of their last 8 free throws to hold off Notre Dame 65-58 Saturday afternoon at Joel Coliseum. Senior Travis McKie followed up his 24-point performance at Virginia Tech with a 14-point outing, while holding Irish sharpshooter Pat Connaughton to 1-7 behind the three-point arc.
"I didn't even realize I missed a shot until the end of the game," Thomas said. "Coach just gave me a lot of confidence today. My mindset was totally different today. I was taking good shots and they just went down for me today."
Notre Dame (11-9, 2-5 ACC) held a 54-53 advantage before Codi Miller-McIntyre, who had languished to that point with 2 points, scored six straight points with less than 2 minutes remaining to put the Deacs back in front to stay. The Irish were led by center Garrick Sherman (20 points, 6 rebounds) who engaged Thomas in a fantastic post duel all afternoon. Senior guard Eric Atkins added 13 points for Notre Dame, who are still winless on the road in the ACC.
"He's a great player- probably the toughest assignment I've had all year," Thomas said of Sherman. "When he gets it down there, he's too big, he's too good."
Wake Forest (14-6, 4-3 ACC) has now won 13 straight contests at Joel Coliseum, avoiding the dreaded letup after picking up their first road win in Blacksburg on Wednesday. Defensively, the Deacs held the Fighting Irish to 39.3 percent shooting from the field, 31 percent in the first half. The Deacons also held its own in the rebounding category, which coach Jeff Bzdelik said was crucial to success in the league.
"I think the last two games we've settled more into at least even-Steven as opposed to getting manhandled, which we did for the first couple of (conference) games," he said.
The announced attendance was 11,710, by far the biggest home court advantage enjoyed by the Deacs thus far this season. Their presence was felt most in the final two minutes, as Miller-McIntyre's exploits and key Deacon rebounds sealed the win for Wake Forest.
"Our fans were awesome this afternoon and we appreciate their support," Bzdelik said. "Fortunately, at the very end there we made some timely plays offensively along with making free throws. Fortunately we made enough plays in a timely manner to come out on top."
The Deacs next get a visit from No. 2 Syracuse on Wednesday night (9:00 p.m., RSN). Bzdelik remarked that the large amount of zone played by the Irish should only help his team as they prepare to battle Jim Boeheim's famous defense.
"This might be the most we've seen it all year," Bzdelik said. "It gives us some good footage from a teaching standpoint on film to learn what we need to do better."