The Wake Forest Demon Deacons (13-16, 5-11) trailed the Pittsburgh Panthers (19-11, 8-8) by as many as 9 points in the second half, but went on a critical 7-0 run with 3 minutes to play and never looked back before winning 69-66. Mitchell Wilbekin went 5-5 from the field, including 4-4 from downtown, and led the Deacs in scoring with 14. Codi Miller-McIntyre had an excellent all-around game and finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Michael Young of Pittsburgh led all scorers with 22.
Wake Forest got off to a hot 13-5 start that caused Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon to call a timeout, but the rest of the half was very back-and-forth, and the Deacs only led 37-35 at halftime. Pittsburgh's biggest lead of the night came after a Jamel Artis jump shot with 12:55 remaining in the game that gave Pitt a 52-43 lead. At that point, Wake Forest had scored just six points in seven minutes. Wake Forest responded less than a minute later when Darius Leonard hit a massive three that pulled Wake to within six, and made it just a two possession game. In my opinion, this was one of the most pivotal plays of the evening.
The Deacs held steady and kept within reaching distance of the Panthers, then with five minutes remaining Codi Miller-McIntyre took over. The junior point guard made two free throws (more on this later) to cut the lead to five. 20 seconds later, he made a difficult off-handed layup. After a Pittsburgh free throw to give Pitt a four-point lead, CMM responded with a layup, a steal, then a kiss off the glass to tie the game at 61. After Pitt missed its next shot, Codi received the outlet, penetrated, then found Dinos Mitoglou for a beautiful trailer three that sent the Joel into bedlam. This was the biggest play of the night. From that point on, Wake made its free throws and got the stops needed to emerge victorious. I thought Manning did an excellent job of offense for defense substitutions during the final four minutes. In a 60 possession game, each one is critical.
Wake Forest prides itself on defense, but they were physically dominated on the glass tonight. Pittsburgh out-rebounded Wake Forest 43-28, and Pitt grabbed 17 offensive rebounds. One Pittsburgh possession in the second half lasted 1 minute and 44 seconds. Pitt grabbed three offensive rebounds on that possession and ended in a layup by Chris Jones. The performance on the glass was inexcusable.
On the positive side, Wake Forest had just six turnovers on the evening, and three of those came within the first 2:40 seconds of action. Wake also did an excellent job shooting and went 9-20 from deep. Overall, they finished with an eFG% of 56.4%, while Pitt had an eFG% of just 46.6%. Wake did an excellent job of getting to the line tonight (28 attempts), but they made just 16 (57%).
It was an excellent way for the team to cap off the home schedule. I thought the team showed a lot of resiliency and patience late in the second half. I also thought it was great how Manning worked seniors Daniel Green and Doug Niedrich into the game. Even getting them in the final 2.8 seconds when the game was out of reach.
This was perhaps Cornelius Hudson's best all-around game as a Demon Deacon. I felt that he was engaged on both ends of the court, and played with outstanding effort. His free throws down the stretch were also essential. If he misses some of those, then Pitt could have easily won this game.
Devin Thomas did not play much during the final four minutes of the contest. It appeared that he was pulled after he failed to box out and opponent, and Pitt scored as a result. Manning's official response was that he "liked the rotation he had out there." Thomas looked disinterested during that stretch. He finished with six points and six rebounds in 27 minutes of play.
Wake Forest clinched the 11th seed in the ACC Tournament with this victory. They will travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday to take on the Duke Blue Devils. Pitt will host Miami.