The Wake Forest Demon Deacons did something they had not done in 1,115 days - win an ACC road game. The game got far more interesting than most Wake fans would have liked down the stretch, but they made enough plays (and got a break on a bad call) to defeat NC State, 93-88.
The Demon Deacons were led by sophomore John Collins, who finished with 21 points and 9 rebounds. He was one of five Deacons to score in double-figures, and Brandon Childress finished with 9 points. Keyshawn Woods had 18 big points, while Bryant Crawford had 14, Mitchell Wilbekin had 12, and Dinos Mitoglou had 10.
Wake came out hot very early on scoring the first 5 points of the contest, but State quickly took a 19-10 lead shortly after the under-16 timeout. Wake Forest was resilient, however, and took a 22-21 lead with 10 minutes remaining in the first half. It was a very back-and-forth game for the remainder of the first half, and NC State held a 44-43 lead as the teams entered the locker rooms.
Keyshawn Woods helped get things going for the Deacons at the start of the half, as he made a pair of free throws and knocked down a triple. The Deacs took a 45-44 lead very early on in the half and fortunately did not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the game.
State fought back multiple times throughout the half, but Wake was able to go on mini runs when the game got tight. Austin Arians knocked down a jumper with 11:28 remaining to give Wake a 68-61 lead, but State was able to make it 68-67 after Dennis Smith, Jr. knocked down three free throws. Dinos Mitoglou a.k.a. the Greek Deac responded moments later when he made a layup for a three-point play and then followed that up with a triple to extend Wake’s lead back to 7. Wake played with a solid cushion and led 88-79 with just 52 seconds remaining after Austin Arians knocked down a pair of free throws.
Nothing is ever easy for the Deacons, however, as I’m pretty sure every Wake fan’s blood pressure rose significantly during the final minute of play. Terry Henderson knocked down a triple with 42 seconds remaining to cut the lead to just 6. Keyshawn Woods then turned it over and that immediately led to ANOTHER Terry Henderson triple to cut the lead to just 3 points with 36 seconds to play. Blood. Pressure. Rising.
Bryant Crawford gave Wake a little breathing room when he made one of two free throws with 29 seconds remaining, but then Terry Henderson (who else?!?) dunked with 17 seconds remaining to cut the lead to just 2. Mitchell Wilbekin, with ice in his veins, knocked down both free throws with 15 seconds remaining to put Wake back up 4. That was critical, as it changed NC State’s strategy for the remainder of the game.
Freshman sensation Dennis Smith, Jr. went to the foul line with 8 seconds remaining after John Collins had a really dumb foul. Fortunately, DSJ missed his first free throw. He knocked down the second to cut it to three and then all hell broke loose.
This is an all time "mistake" by Jamie Luckie pic.twitter.com/cfvRRmQTXj— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) January 21, 2017
There’s no doubt that it was a clean strip and there’s also no doubt that Terry Henderson was actually in bounds. It was a horrific call by Jamie Luckie, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from Luckie. Wake was able to draw up another inbounds play, and they fed it to Wilbekin who knocked down the pair to put Wake up 93-88, and that ended up being the final score.
It wasn’t always pretty, but it was a gutsy win for the Deacs. They lost the rebounding battle, but they did create a number of second chance opportunities with offensive rebounds. Wake Forest, however, won this game by being fundamentally sound and taking care of the ball. They had just 11 turnovers to NC State’s 13. The biggest difference, however, came at the charity stripe. Wake Forest was 29/33 (88%), while State was just 16/27 (59%). Danny Manning used just eight players in this one and I like that approach. I think playing too many players caused Wake problems last season, and I like this adjustment.
Wake Forest is now 12-7, including 3-4 in ACC play. The Deacs are 36th in Ken Pom and projected to finish the regular season 18-13, including 9-9 in ACC play. Still plenty of work to do, but I truly believe they are going to be in contention for the NCAA Tournament at the end of the season.
Wake Forest will resume play on Tuesday evening when they travel to New York to take on the Syracuse Orange. That game figures to be roughly a toss up game and is an excellent opportunity for Wake to get a road win. Go Deacs!