Teams should not lose games in which they shoot 59% from the field, including 54% from beyond the arc, and outrebound their opponent by 11. Unfortunately, that's precisely what happened on Wednesday evening when the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (10-6, 1-3) faced the Virginia Tech Hokies (11-6, 3-1) at Cassell Coliseum. That is because the Hokies did a phenomenal job of protecting the ball (6 turnovers compared to Wake's 16), and were unbelievable from the foul line (29-35). The result was a 93-91 heartbreaking loss for the Demon Deacons.
Wake began the game by allowing Zach LeDay to shoot from deep. He was just 5-17 entering the game, but he went 4-4 against the Deacs. The Deacs were fairly inconsistent in the first half. They found themselves down early, then fought hard to tie the game up at 23, only to allow Virginia Tech to score 8 unanswered points and lead 31-23. Wake started to crawl back into the game, but then Bryant Crawford got the ball tied up, and then got called for a technical after he passed the ball against a display of some sorts on the sideline. It was a fairly soft technical, but Crawford just has to be smarter than that. Sure enough Virginia Tech scored a quick 6 points to build the lead up to 10. Codi Miller-McIntyre drained a 3 as time expired to send the Deacs into the locker room down 45-38. Virginia Tech actually missed a number of layups, and Wake was fortunate to only be down 7.
The Deacs had a strong sense of purpose coming out of halftime, and the teams entered the under-16 timeout tied at 53. Rondale Watson played particularly well during this stretch, as he made two threes, and had a nice assist to Devin Thomas. The rest of the game was very back-and-forth, though every time Wake Forest found themselves close, they could not get the defensive stops they needed. Virginia Tech is an average offensive team, who has only two good shooters, and Wake allowed them to score 93 points. That's not winning basketball.
Wake Forest took a 1-point lead with 5:25 remaining after Bryant Crawford made a deep three, but Virginia Tech's Justin Bibbs responded with a three of his own on the other end. Bibbs was sensational, and finished with 32 points on just 18 field goal attempts.
Wake continued to battle, and Mitchell Wilbekin made a three at the 3:24 mark to give the Deacs an 82-81 lead. A minute later Zach LeDay found himself at the foul line, and he made both of them. The Hokies would not relinquish that lead. Wake cut the lead to 1 after Bryant Crawford gave Devin Thomas a beautiful feed in the post to make it 85-84 Virginia Tech with 1:40 to go. Out of a timeout, Wake Forest played excellent defense, but Justin Bibbs hoisted up a three as the shot clock was expiring to put the Hokies back up by 4. If he misses that shot, then it could have been an entirely different game, but credit to Bibbs for making that shot along with many others.
Wake was down by 6 with 30 seconds to play, but they didn't go down without a fight. Mitchell Wilbekin made a three with 18 seconds to go, and then Virginia Tech made just 1 of 2 free throws. Codi Miller-McIntyre threw up a desperation three with 7 seconds to go that magically banked in. If we're being honest, it should have been an "and one." Wake then correctly fouled Kerry Blackshear, who was just a 48% free throw shooter entering tonight's contest. Naturally, he made both of them. With one last opportunity, Codi Miller-McIntyre attempted a three and missed, but got fouled. He went to the line with an opportunity to tie the game with 1 second left, but he could not convert. He missed the first free throw, then made the second. When he went to intentionally miss the last free throw there was some confusion as to whether it hit the rim, and Virginia Tech was awarded the basketball.
Wake Forest had six players score in double-figures, but were simply atrocious on the defensive end. Virginia Tech should not be able to score 93 points against you. They allowed Virginia Tech to have an offensive rating of of 132.9. That's unacceptable and is not a formula for winning games anywhere, let alone on the road.
This was Wake's best chance to earn an ACC road win, and they could not get the job done. There are still winnable road games remaining, but they will be much tougher to come by. Virginia Tech travels to Georgia Tech on Saturday, while Wake Forest will host Syracuse.