RALEIGH, N.C. — 18,823 mostly red-clad North Carolina State fans made Saturday perhaps the single most challenging environment the Deacs have encountered all season.
Numerically, it’s the most fans they’ve played in front of, but in addition to that — the Wolfpack faithful were downright hostile. They heckled the Wake Forest players incessantly, and were absolutely relentless in their critiques of the three referees.
So to successfully close out a game under those circumstances is definitely worth celebrating, and that’s exactly what the Deacs (12-7, 3-4) did after securing a 93-88 win at PNC Arena Saturday over North Carolina State (13-7, 2-5).
The visiting coaches locker room is separate from players at PNC Arena.
Thought they weren’t in the same room, Wake Forest coach Danny Manning said he definitely heard his players.
“They sounded pretty happy,” Manning said with a laugh.
They had every reason to be loud, and every reason to smile after securing the first road ACC win in the Danny Manning era.
“We’re happy about it, but we have more to play,” Manning said. “We just haven’t finished well. Tonight we were able to finish strong enough.”
Though the Deacs led for nearly 30 minutes, the win surely didn’t come easy.
Wake led 79-69 with 4:50 left and held onto a 88-79 advantage with just 52 ticks left on the clock.
Yet the Wolfpack made it interesting after Terry Henderson drained a 3-pointer, got a steal, then sank another triple in a chaotic five-second sequence.
“I thought going down the stretch, we had some costly turnovers and they made some plays and hit some threes that really tightened up the ball game,” Manning said. “Our guys responded very well from that point.”
The Deacs were strong with the ball from that point forward and made their free throws to hold onto the victory.
Wake hit 29-of-33 foul shots for the game, led by Mitchell Wilbekin’s 6-for-6 performance. He hit four in the final 15 seconds.
“We’re certainly happy with the way we shot the ball from the free throw line tonight,” Manning said. “That gave our team a chance to have some success.”
Wake scored the first five points of the game before the Wolfpack exploded for a 17-5 run to take control early.
A layup by freshman guard Brandon Childress with 10:03 left in the half capped a 12-2 answer by the Deacs as they regained the lead 22-21.
Childress played 21 minutes off the bench, scoring nine points and dishing two assists.
The Wolfpack were led in the first half by Abdul-Malik Abu, who hit 8-of-11 shots, mostly from mid-range. Overall, NC State shot 65.5 percent from the field, but were just 1-of-8 from the 3-point line, meaning they hit 18-of-21 looks inside. They carried a 44-43 lead into the break.
Wake score the first seven points of the second half and never again trailed.
John Collins led the way with 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting. He added nine rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot.
Four other Deacs scored in double figures. Keyshawn Woods was 7-for-10 from the field and scored 18, Bryant Crawford had 14, Wilbekin scored 12 and Dinos Mitoglou finished with 10.
NC State’s heralded freshman point guard Dennis Smith was held to 3-of-9 shooting from the field, but still scored 15 points and had 13 assists.
“Dennis is a terrific basketball player. Even at the end of the game, he had the ball in his hands, and he’s so dangerous,” Manning said. “There were a lot of times we committed two guys to him on a ball screen just trying to get the ball out of his hands. That’s the kind of respect we have for him. We wanted to make sure that if he shot a shot, it was contested.”
Wake continues their journeys on the road Tuesday when they face Syracuse (11-9, 3-4) at 8 p.m.