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Wake Forest Comes Back to Beat Pitt at Home, 63-59

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John Collins beats Skip Brown’s streak of 20 point games to propel Wake past Pittsburgh.

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest came back from down 19 to Pittsburgh tonight to win in Winston-Salem, 63-59.

Wake controlled the opening tip but Pitt started the game on an 8-0 run on two threes and a pair of free throws. It took three minutes before the Deacs could finally find John Collins in the post to get Wake on the board. Collins hit his first two shots, Bryant Crawford scored in transition, and then Crawford and Collins ran the floor to cap off an 8-0 run of their own.

Out of the first TV timeout, Wake trailed 10-9. Wake scored ten of its first 11 points in the paint, and Pittsburgh scored 12 of its first 16 from outside. John Collins got an early rest, and Pitt switched to a 2-3 zone that gave Wake some trouble. Collins didn’t rest long as Pittsburgh ran up a quick five point lead. By the under 12:00 timeout, Wake trailed 16-11.

That five point lead stretched quickly to an eleven point lead as Wake took bad shots and failed to defend the three. Pitt’s 9-0 run was stemmed by an incredible catch and lay-in from John Collins, who took a beating in the post but struggled to draw attention from the referees. Wake managed to pull back from their largest deficit, 11, to within nine at the next television timeout, 24-15.

Wake picked up turnovers on six of eight possessions (against a team in the cellar nationwide at forcing turnovers) and looked very lackadaisical on both ends. The nine point lead stretched to 19. Wake had nearly a five minute drought between baskets as Pitt’s 2-3 zone completely stymied Wake’s offense. John Collins picked up his second foul late in the half, and Michael Young scored 17 first half points for the Panthers.

The first half, aside from a couple good transition plays and John Collins chip shots, was likely the worst Wake Forest played all season. Pitt shot 50% from the floor, and Wake was unable to get John Collins easy looks, missed open shots, and turned the ball over. Wake is one of the best offensive teams in the nation, and they scored 24 points in the first 20 minutes. The performance was reminiscent of the Jeff Bzdelik era when the team was bereft of talent, fight, and coaching. The Deacs finished the half on a 7-0 run, however, and went into the half down 36-24.

Pittsburgh started the second half with a turnover, but Wake failed to capitalize, and the second half started out just as ugly as the first. Pittsburgh got the scoring going in the half, and the teams traded baskets to the first TV timeout of the second, with Pitt’s lead cut to ten, 45-35.

John Collins scored his 12th point out of the timeout to keep the deficit within ten. Michael Young picked up his fourth foul with 14:07 to go in the game, his 21 points at the time leading all scorers. It was a turning point in the game. Brandon Childress threaded a gorgeous pass through to Greg McClinton, cutting the lead down to eight. After Collins picked up his third foul, Wake went with a lineup with Doral Moore, Greg McClinton, Mitchell Wilbekin, Brandon Childress, and Bryant Crawford. Surprisingly, that lineup could not cut into the Pitt lead. At the next TV timeout, Wake trailed 47-39.

After the timeout Dinos Mitoglou replaced Greg McClinton, and Wake committed its ninth turnover. Wake cut the lead down to six on a monstrous Doral Moore dunk, shaking the stadium, and the Deacs earned the bonus on the other end on an over the back call. Wake cut into the six point lead in spite of a Mitchell Wilbekin shot from just inside midcourt with ten seconds left on the shotclock. Pitt went over six minutes without scoring when Young went to the bench, but the under 8:00 timeout, Wake trailed 50-45.

Pitt quickly stretched their lead back to six while John Collins sat on the bench with his fourth foul. Michael Young checked back into the game for Pitt with less than six minutes to go, and John Collins came back in with 4:36 left. Danny Manning saw Coach Stallings go offense-for-defense with Michael Young, so he did the same thing with John Collins. The way the officials were calling the game, coaches couldn’t be too careful. By the under 4:00 timeout, Wake trailed just 55-51.

As a quick aside, for as good as ACC basketball has been this season, ACC officiating has tried its hardest to make games less fun to watch. They call touch fouls and then let players get hammered in the post. They call “freedom of movement” fouls because they were a point of emphasis, but it led to less movement and more dead balls. The gripe will sound like sour grapes, and it is. Complaints should be reserved for the ten players on the floor at a given time, the coaching, and the ball game. Too often today though, officials have made themselves a big part of the narrative.

Back to game action, out of the timeout after the teams traded free throws, Austin Arians hit an elbow three pointer to cut the lead to one point, 57-56. All of Arians’ eight points came in the second half, and he managed a block as the clock ticked under 2:00 to play, with Wake tied 57-57. Wake took a timeout to get John Collins back in the ballgame, and he grabbed three offensive rebounds and a putback and a foul on one of the better hustle plays you’ll see. He missed the resulting free throw, but still tallied his 11th straight 20 point performance.

As the clock ticked towards a minute to play, Keyshawn Woods committed a foul, Pitt hit two free throws, and the game was tied again, 59-59. On the next possession, Collins caught it in the post and earned another trip to the line, where he went zero-for-two. Pitt took back over, but turned the ball over, and Crawford went coast-to-coast. His shot rimmed out, but John Collins was there to tip the ball back in and give Wake the lead, 61-59 with 18.8 to go.

Pitt got a good look at three and missed, and the officials initially ruled that Bryant Crawford hit the ball last on the rebound out of bounds. After an official review, the officials confirmed their decision, and Pitt took back over with 5.6 seconds to play. On the inbounds pass, Pitt threw the ball straight back out of bounds, and Wake took over again. Austin Arians inbounded the ball to Brandon Childress in the backcourt, and Pitt fouled the freshman with 4.8 seconds to play. Childress nailed both free throws and essentially iced the game.

For as poorly as the Deacs played in the first half, they played very well in the second half. Wake held Pittsburgh to 4/26 shooting in the second half, came back from a one-time 19 point lead, and did much of it with John Collins on the bench. The team will next face Louisville at home a week from tonight seeking a marquee win to seal their tournament hopes.