GREENSBORO, N.C. — The UNC-Greensboro home crowd rose to their feet in the final seconds, euphoric after a Diante Baldwin layup had tied the game at 75 with 29 seconds to go.
But Wake Forest guard Bryant Crawford sat them down with a heroic 3-pointer from beyond NBA range in the waning seconds to secure the Deac 78-75 victory Friday night over UNCG at Greensboro Coliseum.
“Bryant Crawford just made a shot,” Wake Forest coach Danny Manning said. “He picked a great time to make his only 3-pointer of the night. He had no intention of passing it.”
“I’m OK as long as he makes it,” Manning said when asked about the shot selection.
The Deacs had called timeout with 18 second remaining to draw up a play for the final shot.
“I wanted to set a ball screen for him (Crawford),” Manning said. “We went a little bit early, and then he just waved everybody off. We wanted to get the last shot, and he made sure we got it. He just made a great play. He’s fearless, and we love that about him most of the time.”
It was a game that seems well in hand for the Deacs (8-2) early in the second half. Wake led the game for nearly 37 minutes and had built a 16-point lead after an Austin Arians layup with 14:54 left in the game.
But the Spartan (7-3) fought back, putting together a 18-4 run over the next five minutes of play.
“We were very fortunate to win the ballgame,” Manning said. “UNCG was active, they were getting 50/50 balls, they were getting second-chance opportunities. We get up 16 in the second, and aren’t able to keep that lead. We have to do a better job of that, and that starts defensively.
“All the credit goes to UNCG — they fought and they scrapped on every possession.”
Wake Forest sophomore guard Keyshawn Woods stopped the bleeding. He drained a 3-pointer with 5:39 left in the game, then got a steal and was fouled on the ensuing UNCG possession. He nailed both free throws to give Wake a six-point lead at 73-67 with 5:20 to go.
“For what he’s giving us as our sixth starter, I’m very happy with what he’s doing,” Manning said about Woods. “He hit some big 3s for us, got to the free throw line and rebounded. He’s doing a lot according to the stat sheet.”
Woods finished with 16 points on 3-of-5 shooting behind the arc.
Then the Deacs went cold, and the Spartans went on an 8-2 run culminating with the Baldwin layup to tie the game to set up the final seconds of drama.
The game-winner, was Crawford’s first made 3 of the game, but he tied for the scoring lead with 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting. He added three assists against one turnover.
John Collins contributed his fifth consecutive double-double, finishing with 17 points on 5-of-6 field goal shooting and 12 rebounds. He also had an assist, a blocked shot, a steal and four turnovers.
“John is having a really good year. He’s averaging a double-double,” Manning said. “He’s got to figure out ways himself to get on the board. I think he can do a little bit more on the offensive glass. He doesn’t draw enough fouls posting up, making the defense work.
“As he continues to put up these numbers, he going to attract more attention. He’s a young sophomore, but a good one though. He’s got a long ways to go with his development, but he’s taking steps.”
The Deacs are now ‘off’ for finals week before traveling to No. 12 Xavier (7-2) next Saturday.
“We’re going to watch film on this one for a couple days and then we’re going to throw this one away,” Manning said. “We need to use this to get better from it. You can’t lose a 16-point lead in the second half.”