"In the huddles he was saying things, even when he wasn't in the game," Sidney Lowe said. "He was the vocal guy today. I think the guys fed off of that – and he played well too."
Lowe spent much of his Friday press conference talking about team leadership and the Wolfpack players, especially Williams, seemed to take the message to heart on Saturday at the RBC Center. The sophomore guard came off the bench and scored 12 points, including a pair of timely 3-pointers, to help push the Pack to a 68-54 win over No. 23 Wake Forest and snap a seven-game conference losing streak.
"I knew we needed an emotional uplift," Williams said. "It's hard when you are on a losing streak – I knew if I was able to come in and bring a spark maybe it would light a fire under the rest of my teammates."
Whether it was Williams' spark or just pure coincidence, shots finally started to go down for the Pack, especially in the second half. The home team shot 52 percent in the final 20 minutes including 71 percent from long distance and also hit 83 percent of its free throws. Wake Forest, comparatively, shot just 35 percent from the floor and did not hit a 3-pointer, going 0-for-12 and snapping a streak of 633 games in which a Pack opponent has made a 3-point shot.
"We did something that we were having trouble doing and that is making a couple of shots when a team is making a run," Lowe said. "I thought our guys did a great job of keeping their focus."
Tracy Smith again led the team in scoring with 14 points, scoring just four field goals but going a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line. Four other players finished in double figures as Farnold Degand added 13 points, Williams had 12 and Javier Gonzalez scored 11 points and had six assists while committing only two turnovers. Dennis Horner added his third double-double of the season with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
"A lot of guys played well for us," Lowe said. "CJ was great for us, Dennis played well. I thought Javi was really under control and ran the show for us. It was a great effort and a great win for our ballclub."
Both teams came out flat offensively to start the game, as the teams made just two field goals in the first seven minutes. But the Pack pulled ahead with an 8-0 run midway through, eventually stretching the lead out to 10 points by halftime.
The Wake offense was abysmal in the first half, shooting just 26 percent and going 0-for-5 from behind the arc. They also committed 15 turnovers as the Pack defense frustrated Ishmael Smith and Al-Farouq Aminu. The Deacons did manage to pull down 13 offensive rebounds on 25 misses, leading to seven second-chance points. The Pack offense wasn't much better, shooting only 31 percent, but the Pack took better care of the ball with just six turnovers to help stay ahead of Wake.
"I thought our big guys did a great job of getting back and forming that [defensive] wall so [Smith] couldn't get into the lane," Lowe said. "The first thing was to sprint back and we worked on it the last several days."
The Pack came out of the locker room and hung on to its lead even as the Wake offense came to life. The Deacons got as close as six points with nine minutes left in the game, but the Pack put the game away with three-straight 3-point baskets around to push the lead to 14.
Down the stretch the Pack hit its free-throws - removing any drama from the final minutes and picking up its third ACC win. The Pack will travel to Miami this week in hopes of starting its first conference winning streak this year.
"Basketball is a 40-minute game and we usually play about 25," Scott Wood said. "It was nice to get that 40 good minutes of basketball and coming out with a victory."