WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A week ago he was undersized and abused on the defensive end, unable to contest a Luke Kennard 3-pointer that drove a stake through the hearts of Wake Forest fans at Joel Coliseum who were ready to storm the court in celebration of a win over their hated in-state rival Duke Blue Devils.
Against Georgia Tech, however, Wake guard Mitchell Wilbekin delivered a virtuoso performance, contributing in virtually every way possible as the Deacs claimed their second-straight ACC win, a 81-69 victory over the Yellowjackets Saturday at The Joel.
A week ago, three despondent Wake players came into the media room after the loss deathly quiet with their heads down for the brief and useless two-minute interview session. Answers were short and mostly mumbled.
But after the Deacs win over the Yellowjackets, the trio of players were smiling, laughing and full of great material.
John Collins was John Collins. He wrecked havoc the entire game, putting nearly every Georgia Tech big in foul trouble while notching his sixth-straight 20-point game.
But Wilbekin uncharacteristically stuffed the stat sheet. He scored a season-high 16 points on 4-of-8 shooting behind the arc and perfect 4-for-4 shooting from the foul stripe. The 16 points are an ACC career-high for Wilbekin.
He also grabbed a season-high five rebounds. In fact, it’s the same number of rebounds Wilbekin has in the last six games combined.
Wilbekin also dished a season-high five assists.
“I thought this was a great game by Mitch. We’re spoiled by Mitch as a staff, because he comes in and he’s solid. He understands multiple positions,” Wake coach Danny Manning said. “He makes big shots. He made a couple big 3s this afternoon, when we didn’t have much going on. Mitch was Mitch. He was solid and made shots.”
“I think pretty solid overall. I just want to stay confident,” Wilbekin said. “Overall, we did pretty well offensively and we finished.”
The Deacs has a 16-point second-half lead cut to seven with 5:48 left.
"We’ve been there before,” Wilbekin said. “Earlier in the season we might have folded or freaked out a little bit, but we’ve been there before.”
Wake hit 8-for-20 from behind the arc in the win.
“Everyone on our team can pretty much shoot the ball, so it’s going to be somebody’s night every night, Wake freshman guard Brandon Childress said.
Whose night was it against Georgia Tech?
“I don’t know, I think his name is Mitchell Wilbekin and John Collins,” Childress said. “I don’t know who those guys are.”
Big nights by Collins and Wilbekin led to a jovial group of Deacs after the win, as Wake secured their second-straight victory since the loss a week ago to Duke.
“That loss was gut-wrenching,” Collins said. “I think we did a great job of the whole team keeping our spirits high.”
“I don’t know what loss you’re talking about,” Wilbekin said with a laugh. “Practice the next day was really tough. We had to learn from it and move on. I think we responded well.”