WINSTON-SALEM North Carolina has been known over the years to bring out the best in Wake Forest, and Sunday night the Deacons best game was good enough to produce easily their best victory of the season in the ACC opener for both teams.
Answering a late Tar Heels surge, the Deacons stunned 19th-ranked North Carolina 73-67 in front of a rollicking crowd of 12,462 at Joel Coliseum. After Wake Forest used a 9-4 surge late to put the game away, the students rushed the court to celebrate the Deacons first victory over a ranked opponent.
Wake Forest (11-3) could have made it easier by hitting more free throws, but the Deacons made six in a row over the final 49.4 seconds. Arnaud Adala Mota made four and Tyler Cavanaugh two for a 71-65 led that rendered Brice Johnsons follow shot at the buzzer inconsequential.
It was a huge win for us, Cavanaugh said. Thats going to catapult us hopefully and now weve got to get a couple on the road.
Wake Forest missed 14 free throws, was outrebounded 53-34 and gave up a months worth of rim-rattling dunks to the high-flying Tar Heels.
We got outrebounded by 30, senior Travis McKie said. And we gave up about 10 dunks .
But we won.
The Deacons did so by digging in on defense, holding North Carolina to 29 field goals on 75 attempts for 39 percent and two 3-pointers on 15 attempts for 13 percent. And for all the Tar Heels effort of pulling down 24 offensive rebounds, they converted them into only 17 second-chance points.
We kept hanging around because we were doing a good job of rebounding the ball, North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. But we werent finishing the plays when we got the offensive rebound.
You look (at the statistics) and we had 24 offensive rebounds, and it should be more than 17 points. But we werent tough enough, physical enough, explosive enough, whatever, to finish the plays at that point.
McKie led the Deacons with 16 points, Codi Miller-McIntyre scored nine of his 12 during the second half and Cavanaugh finished with 11 points, four rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
But a key to the victory was the play of reserves Moto, Coron Williams and Aaron Rountree. Moto, in easily his best game of the season, contributed 11 points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes.
It was a great team effort by our team, Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said. They all stood out.
Aaron Rountree gave us tremendous energy. Arnaud, I thought he grew up a lot today. It was just a great team effort from everyone.
James Michael McAdoo led North Carolina (10-4) with 13 points to go with eight rebounds, J.P. Tokoto had 12 points and nine rebounds and Johnson had 12 points and nine rebounds. But Marcus Paige, the Tar Heels leading scorer at 17.8 points a game, made only three of 12 field-goal attempts for eight points to go with six assists and four turnovers.
After falling behind 56-44 with 8 minutes, 28 seconds remaining, the Tar Heels scored on eight of their next 10 possessions. The surge ended with Tokoto dunking a miss by Paige to cut the lead to 64-61 with 1:59 remaining.
Tokoto stole the ball from Madison Jones but missed the layup. The Deacons capitalized with a fast-break layup by McKie, who drew the foul and swished the free throw for a 67-61 lead with 1:03 left.
We got it to a one-possession game and then we took two shots that we rushed, Williams said. We probably should have taken a few more seconds to get a better shot.
The Winston-Salem Journal is a news partner of the Observer. For more Wake Forest coverage go to www.journalnow.com/sports/wfu/
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