WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - An angry halftime locker room Tuesday night finally lit the fuse on the reeling Wake Forest Demon Deacons, igniting a second half run to down Clemson, 62-57. Sophomores Devin Thomas and Tyler Cavanaugh scored 12 points apiece while Arnaud William Adala Moto pitched in with 11 to lead the Deacons over the visiting Tigers. Deacon head coach Jeff Bzdelik cited confidence as the key to breaking his team's recent seven-game skid.
"At one time we were 14-6 and we have played some tough teams," Bzdelik said. "I believe that we lost our confidence which happens to anybody. Their confidence should be back now."
Wake Forest (15-13, 5-10 ACC) had not won a month, having last beaten Notre Dame at home on January 25. Clemson (17-10, 8-7 ACC) was looking for a road win to bolster their precarious NCAA Tournament hopes, but allowed the Deacons to shoot 59 percent from the floor in the second half to erase what had been a seven-point halftime deficit. The Tigers' star forward, K.J. McDaniels (10 points) was held in check all night by Travis McKie and Moto, and didn't score from the field during the second half.
"He's very athletic, very explosive," McKie said. "I can't take all the credit, me and Moto were switching off on him and we wanted him to work for every shot."
Clemson coach Brad Brownell disclosed that McDaniels was dealing with an injury suffered during the game (said to be a cramped elbow), and it affected his performance.
"I don't know exactly what it was, nobody told me that he couldn't play but obviously (it) probably affected him because he's normally a better player than he was tonight and shoots the ball a lot better than he did," Brownell said.
The Deacs trailed 30-23 at the break, which prompted a chaotic scene in the Wake Forest locker room. After an effort in Chapel Hill on Saturday that had many questioning the team's effort and focus, the Deacs' first half performance against Clemson looked to be more of the same. However, multiple Deacs said the energy returned in a loud scene in the locker room.
"Everybody was just yelling," McKie said. "Everybody was yelling. Everybody was into it, the energy was definitely there."
One of the more vocal Deacs was a player that never even saw the floor. Cavanaugh said that freshman Greg McClinton, who is redshirting this year due to injury, challenged the team at the break.
"I think it meant more than it (normally) should, because it's Greg," Thomas said. "He's quiet, shy and doesn't really talk. If he's in there yelling at us and cursing us out, it really must mean something. It meant a lot to all of us."
Wake Forest stormed out of the locker room to eventually take a nine-point lead with less than four minutes remaining. The Tigers answered back, whittling the lead down to two when Thomas fouled McDaniels with 1:39 left. The normally reliable McDaniels (87 percent this season from the line) missed two free throws, leading to a Codi Miller McIntyre layup and-one to put the Deacs back up by five. Cavanaugh then hit two key free throws with 20 seconds remaining to seal it for the Demon Deacons.
Next up for Wake Forest is a matchup with Boston College on Saturday (4:00 p.m., RSN). Clemson will host Maryland on Sunday (1:00 p.m., ACC Network).