The Wake Forest Demon Deacons (9-9, 1-4) traveled to Syracuse, New York to take on the Syracuse Orange (13-4, 4-0)and damn near came home with a victory, but ultimately fell short 86-83 in overtime after Cornelius Hudson's half-court shot hit the backboard and then rimmed out. Syracuse was led by Rakeem Christmas, who finished with 34 points tonight. He should be a 1st round NBA Draft pick in June.
The Deacs looked sluggish early and Syracuse led 17-7 with 13:48 remaining in the first half, but then Konstantinos Migoglou a.k.a. the Greek Deac took over and gave the Deacs a huge lift off the bunch. Dinos became a monster from the short corner and beyond the arc. He finished the first half with 16 points on 6-6 from the field, including 2-2 from beyond the arc and 2-2 from the foul line. Codi Miller-McIntyre finished with 10 first-half points, including a 40-foot buzzer beater to finish the first half and give the Deacs a 37-36 lead headed into halftime. Rakeem Christmas and Trevor Cooney were a two-man show for the Orange. Christmas finished with 14 points on 7-12 shooting while Cooney made 3-4 threes to finish with 13 points.
Darius Leonard was the man to start the second half as he drained two three-pointers to start the second half and then Dinos Mitoglou continued his hot shooting by draining a three and then another shot from the short corner to give the Deacs a 50-41 lead with 15:53 to go. Syracuse responded with an 8-0 run of their own that cause Danny Manning to call a timeout. Wake responded with a Madison Jones layup and, stop me if you've heard this before, another Dinos shot from the short corner. The two teams battled back and forth and the Deacs had a 58-56 lead with 7:18 to go at the under-8 timeout.
Rakeem Christmas tied the game at 58 with a long-two, but then Wake Forest responded with two Mitchell Wilbekin free throws and a Devin Thomas tip-in to give Wake Forest a 62-58 lead. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim called a timeout when Syracuse was seemingly exhausted. Trevor Cooney nailed a deep three after Wake's defenders went under a screen, but then the Greek Deac responded with ANOTHER three and Wake Forest led 65-61 with 3:52 left in the first half.
The Trevor Cooney and Rakeem Christmas show continued after the timeout and had a 69-68 lead over Wake Forest with the ball and 1:24 remaining. With the score still 69-68 Codi Miller-McIntyre took a long-two with about 30 seconds remaining, but it did not go in deflected off Cornelius Hudson on a rebound attempt. Michael Gbinje made both ends of the one-and-one, but Wake Forest freshman Cornelius Hudson responded with a huge 3-pointer with 14.1 seconds left. Gbinje missed a fairly open layup with a handful of seconds remaining, Wake Forest got the ball, but Mitchell Wilbekin's half-court heave clanked off the rim and the teams headed to overtime tied at 71.
Wake Forest fell down 79-75, but then Devin Thomas hit a free throw and Madison Jones had an excellent steal and dish to Devin Thomas to bring the Deacs within one. On the next possession Devin Thomas was inexplicably called for his fifth foul and Rakeem Christmas went to the line where he made both free throws to put Cuse up by 3. Darius Leonard then bobbled the ball on the next possession and Syracuse retained possession. Ron Patterson was sent to the foul line and missed both free throws. Codi Miller-McIntyre then hit a layup with 13.7 seconds to cut the lead to one. Rakeem Christmas was fouled and made both free throws. Codi then missed a foul shot and Christmas made two more free throws. Codi nailed a DEEP three to cut it to two. Trevor Cooney made one of two free throws and then Wake Forest's Cornelius Hudson's half-court shot hit the backboard and then rimmed out as Wake Forest fell 86-83.
Wake Forest had strong ball movement throughout the night and finished with 20 assists on just 29 made field goals. Wake outrebounded Syracuse 42-40, but had 13 turnovers to Syracuse's 8. Codi MIller-McIntyre finished with 24 strong points, while Konstantinos Mitoglou finished with 26. Devin Thomas finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out in overtime.
This was the toughest loss of the season for the Demon Deacons, but is another game that Demon Deacon fans should take a lot of pride in. This is the best I've felt about Wake Forest's basketball program in a long time. Manning and his staff have this team playing crisp basketball and there are a number of pieces to build on moving forward. Manning isn't one for moral victories, and neither am I, but there's no denying how much this team has improved in such a short period of time.
Syracuse will travel to Clemson on Wednesday, while Wake Forest will have a week off before they host the North Carolina Tar Heels next Wednesday. I hope the Deacs bring the energy to the Joel, because the team deserves it.