Credit the Horns for putting themselves in a position to win but ultimate credit goes to the Demon Deacons (9-1) for playing strong deny defense, particularly for keeping the ball out of the hands of Tobacco Road terror Tucker, who poured in 27 points on the game, including eight of the Horns' final 10, and grabbed 14 boards.
"We wanted P.J. Tucker to take it to the basket, that was the idea," Barnes said. "When he didn't, I could have called a time out, I told the guys I would take the wrap on that one, but it was not that possession that lost the game. Again, we cannot go five possessions without penetrating inside, and that is really where we lost this one."
Texas actually led by three, 80-77, with about five to play on a Tucker layup, but Deacon big man Eric Williams quickly answered Tucker's bucket with a dunk at the other end and two possessions later, after LaMarcus Aldridge missed two free throws that could have extended the Longhorn lead, the home team moved on top for good when Vytas Danelius scored underneath to make it 81-80. Aldridge had a chance at redemption on UT's next possession, but he missed a chip shot and followed that with a foul on the rebound attempt, sending Wake's outstanding guard Chris Paul to the line where he knocked down two, making the Horns' comeback climb even tougher.
Brad Buckman fouled out with 51.4 seconds left shortly after his follow-up cut the Texas deficit to one, 85-84. The junior scored just those two in the second half but he finished with 17 points and six boards on the day in another in a string of strong '04 efforts after last season's sophomore slump.
Because of foul trouble, Gibson played just five first half minutes but came alive in the second half, finishing with 12 points, three assists, two steals and no turnovers in 21 minutes of action. Kenny Taylor totaled 13 points and five assists and Paulino added six points and six assists. (Eight points or seven assists and Texas gets the 'W'.) Center Klotz had eight points and six rebounds and Aldridge added five points and three boards. Mike Williams played just four minutes, grabbing one rebound but did not score.
"I thought we really beat a very good Texas team," Wake Forest head coach Skip Prosser said. "We didn't guard them as well as we would have liked to, but they are very hard to guard. They are strong inside, there guards are very quick shooting the ball. Gibson looked like Allen Iverson for a stretch in the second half."
Prosser's Wake Forest backcourt of Paul and Justin Gray demonstrated why it is considered one of the best in the country. Paul scored 23, set up his teammates with 12 assists and almost single-handedly brought the Deacons back from a 76-71 deficit with just over eight minutes to play with his spinning drives. Gray pumped in 15. Center Williams did his part as well, scoring eight straight mid-way through the second on his way to 19 points and nine boards on the day.
Texas and Wake shot an identical 48.5 percent for the game after ripping the nets for 55.2 and 50 percent, respectively, in the first half. The Horns outrebounded the home team 40-37.
The game stayed a back-and-forth affair through the first 12 minutes but a Chris Ellis dunk broke a 28-28 tie and Texas trailed for the rest of the half. The Deacons opened up an eight-point lead, 38-30, two minutes later but the Horns kept Wake from pulling away in the final six minutes before the break, with P.J. Tucker's free throws pulling Texas to within four, 49-45, at the half.
With Gibson on the bench after picking up his third foul less than a minute-and-a-half into the second half, Tucker carried the offensive load, scoring UT's first 10 points after the break, the final bucket cutting the Deacon lead to two, 57-55. A Gibson three a couple of minutes later cut the Wake advantage to one, 63-62, and two possessions later, Klotz gave the Horns their first lead since mid-way through the first half, 64-63. The teams exchanged buckets over the next four possessions before Texas moved ahead 76-71 on Taylor's follow of a Buckman miss, setting up the game's exhilarating final run.
The Horns (7-2) return to action Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Austin vs. Centenary.