The story of conference play for Wake Forest began with blown second half leads against Florida State, Clemson and Virginia. However, Wake Forest found themselves trailing by 19 with 18:06 left in the game.
Just 10 minutes later, that Tar Heel lead was cut to just one following a Keyshawn Woods layup, but the Deacons never regained the lead and fell to the Tar Heels 93-87.
Key shots by North Carolina and foul trouble for John Collins and Bryant Crawford proved too much to overcome for Wake Forest.
“I thought we did some good things in the second half as far as competing and battling and scraping to get back in it, but we dug ourselves too big of a hole to get out of,” Wake coach Danny Manning said.
That hole was caused by the North Carolina starters making majority of their baskets and shooting more than 50% from the field in the first half. All five Tar Heel starters finished in double figures.
Another major factor was the foul trouble that John Collins found himself in early in the game. Collins sat most of the final 12 minutes of the first half after picking up his second foul, and collected his third just eight seconds into the second half.
Collins first foul came on a double-foul call that was heavily disputed by Manning. On the third personal, Collins just appears to be hit in the back by a Tar Heel player making a cut to the perimeter. Manning had no comment to the calls.
“Obviously you’d like to have your leading scorer, leading rebounder there on the court,” Manning said.
The second half comeback was sparked in a large part due to freshman Brandon Childress, who scored all 16 of his points in the second half. Tar Heel Coach Roy Williams was impressed with the true freshman’s performance.
“I told him he had a heck of a game. He made some big baskets for them,” Williams said. “I really thought he was good.”
If Childress can channel this second half effort into a more complete performance, he can be a very dangerous freshman point guard for the rest of the season.
With the momentum in the second half fully on the Demon Deacons side, it was up to the Tar Heels to make the clutch shots and that’s exactly what they did. Big 3-pointers by Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson gave the Tar Heels enough of a cushion to hold onto their lead for the entire half despite the valiant rally of the Deacons.
Wake Forest has a full week to prepare for the Miami Hurricanes as the daunting ACC slate continues on for the Demon Deacons. A strong second half finish against a championship contending North Carolina team could be the spark needed for Wake Forest to turn this season around before it gets away.