WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Wake Forest exacted a measure of revenge on Friday night for an embarrassing defeat in Arkansas last season.
Senior power forward Devin Thomas had 20 points and 12 rebounds and Cornelius Hudson 17 as the Demon Deacons edged the Razorbacks 88-85.
Michael Wilbekin added 13 points for Wake Forest (6-2), who were hammered 83-53 by Arkansas in Fayetteville and held off the Razorbacks (3-4) after they rallied from 14 points down in the second half to take the lead.
“At the end of the day, we didn’t get the job done,” Razorback head coach Mike Anderson said. “We have got a disappointed locker room, but hopefully have a team that learned something about themselves tonight.
“We were in this game until the buzzer and it is just a shame, you have a play here and a play there. We had opportunities to put big-time pressure on them by making baskets going down the stretch.
“We just couldn’t. I like the fight. I think there was a lot of fight in this team and that is how this team is going to have to be throughout the year. We are going to have to fight and scratch and claw.”
Dinos Mitoglou hit a go-ahead 3-point basket with 45 seconds remaining that made it 86-83 .
The Razorbacks, 27-9 last season, lost their first true road game this season.
“There are no moral victories,” Anderson said. “But I think we are going use it from a positive standpoint. We had a chance to fold our tent when they went up early…but we held our poise and came back and chipped away and chipped away and even took the lead in the game.
“We know that we have a chance to be a really good basketball team, but we have to continue to trust and believe in one another.”
Moses Kingsley and Dusty Hannahs had 15 points each, Manuale Watkins tied a career-high 14 points, Anthlon Bell 13 and Jabril Durham 9 points and 7 rebounds.
“We’ve got some pieces and some of those pieces are coming together. It’s better than it probably was a week and a half ago and I think it will continue to get better. Those guys are finding out their roles.”
Arkansas trailed by 14 in the second half before rallying to take the lead twice, including 81-80 on Watkins’ with 3:30 left in the game.
The Razorbacks had a chance to take the lead or tie down 87-85, but had a turnover with seven seconds left in the game.
Bell's 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied it rimmed out.
“I thought our guys grew up a little bit tonight,” Anderson said. “Adversity takes place on the road, but we were right there at the end in position.
“We talked about earlier coming into the game, just hang around, just hang around and don’t panic…We were right there and I thought we were really going to have a chance to not only steal one, but take one.
“But I guess too much Devin Thomas. He really kind of willed that team, but it wasn’t because of lack of effort. Our guys fought tooth and nail.”
Watkins played well in his birth state on night when Arkansas shot 46.4 percent (32-of-69) from the field, 29.4 percent (5-of-17) from 3-point range and 84.2 percent (16-of-19) from the free throw line
“Manuale Watkins was playing like a man possessed,” Anderson said. “He was born in North Carolina so it was a little personal for him. He had family here and I thought Dusty gave us some big baskets down the stretch.”
Wake Forest led 48-39 at halftime and stretched that lead to 57-43 in the second half before Arkansas mounted its comeback.
That included a 9-0 run capped by Hannahs’ 3 pointer that put Arkansas up 66-65 while Bell’s 3-pointer that gave the Razorbacks an 81-80 lead with just over two minutes left.
“We changed defenses,” Anderson said. “Our match-up defense was working and you could see that. We needed to keep them off the line because they were really, really attacking us in our man-to-man.”
Wake Forest, which owns wins over UCLA and Indiana already this season, shot 51.7 percent (31-of-60) from the field, 40.9 percent (9-of-22) from 3-point range and 73.9 percent (17-of-23) from the free throw line.
The Razorbacks forced 15 turnovers while committing 8.
Arkansas returns to action Tuesday when it hosts Evansville.