The Wake Forest Demon Deacons were down by as many as 11 in the second half, but that didn’t stop them from storming back to defeat the Virginia Tech Hokies, 89-84. The win moves Wake Forest to 18-12 overall, including 9-9 in ACC play. Virginia Tech falls to 21-9 overall, including 10-8 in ACC play. In my opinion, this win all but sealed Wake Forest’s NCAA Tournament bid.
Austin Arians was the real MVP for the Demon Deacons in the first half. The graduate transfer hit 3 triples during the first 5:15 of the game and finished the first half with 13 points. He was active defensively, and helped Wake Forest stay within striking distance when the Hokies got off to a very hot start. Virginia Tech was led in the first half by senior Zach LeDay, who had 12 first half points, those two shouldn’t have counted due to a blatant hook. Overall, the Hokies shot 56% from the field in the first half, while also converting 92% of their free throws.
I also thought that Wake Forest did an excellent job of feeding Keyshawn Woods when he was being defended by former walk-on, Matt Galloway. He finished with 7 first half points, and a number of those came as Wake was coming back from a 13-point deficit. Another huge moment during that run was Bryant Crawford’s 4-point play. He was struggling offensively, as were the Deacs, but that 4-point play got Wake going again. The fact that Wake was down just 5 points at halftime with John Collins, who had scored 20+ points in 12 consecutive games, scoring 0 points was remarkable.
The second half didn’t get off to the greatest of starts. Wake had done so much to claw back from down 13 points in the first half, but found themselves down 11 points early on in the second half. Danny Manning did not start John Collins in the second half due to his three first half fouls. It was an unconventional decision, but I’m all for outside the box thinking. Collins made his presence felt when he returned, as the sophomore from Florida immediately threw down a monster dunk. Collins was unable to extended his streak of scoring 20+ points to 13 games, but he still finished with a solid 13 points.
I thought that the player of the game for the Deacs was Bryant Crawford. The sophomore point guard finished with 26 points on just 8 field goal attempts. The former Washington, D.C. Gatorade Player of the Year also made 13 of 14 free throws. He was frustrating at times, but he had 0 turnovers and made a number of huge buckets throughout the game. He had the 4-point play, a critical 3-point play (where he got the benefit of an incorrect goaltending call), a nice pair of free throws after a steal, and the great pump fake to draw a foul with 40 seconds left and extend Wake’s lead.
A very solid all-around effort by the Deacs. Wake had 5 players score in double-figures, won the rebounding battle by 7, and only had 11 turnovers. Nearly every player was efficient, and had more points than field goal attempts. The switch to the zone in the second half was excellent, as Virginia Tech made just 8 of 26 three pointers throughout the game. Wake extended pressure with that zone, and also slowed down VT’s dribble penetration. VT was getting so many layups early on by beating our defenders, and then clean perimeter shots off kick outs, but the zone largely negated that. Wake went extremely small during some stretches, and I thought that was s,art coaching by Manning and his staff. I was extremely impressed by Mitoglou’s performance in the middle of that zone.
Outstanding heart by the team. Third game in a row where they have overcome double-digit deficits. I think the Pitt game gave Wake great confidence headed into these final two contests. If that Pitt comeback doesn’t happen, I truly believe that the Deacs would be 6-12 in ACC play right now instead of 9-9.
All told, 18-12 overall, including 9-9 in the ACC (the best basketball conference in the country), has to put Wake in the NCAA Tournament. They’ve faced a very difficult schedule, have very good advanced metrics, three ACC road wins, solid non-conference road wins over Richmond, College of Charleston, and UNC Greensboro, and very nice home wins over Miami and #8 Louisville. They will now face Boston College in the first round of the ACC Tournament on Tuesday afternoon, where they will be a prohibitive favorite. We’ll have full coverage of that game in the coming days.
Start polishing your dancing shoes, because I believe that the Deacs are headed back to the Big Dance. Go Deacs!