BLACKSBURG, VA — The Deacs may not have cemented an NCAA Tournament bid Saturday afternoon with a road victory at Virginia Tech, but they should have.
They showed that they are a team that can overcome adversity.
They showed they are a complete squad, and not just a group of guys surrounding an ACC Player of the Year candidate in John Collins.
They also have showed that they’re playing their best basketball of the season, whipping off three-consecutive league wins for the first time since 2009 — all under dire, must-win circumstances and coming from behind each time.
These Deacs are for real and deserve to have their name called on Selection Sunday a week from tomorrow.
It took a complete team effort on both ends of the court for Wake (18-12, 9-9) to come away with the 89-84 win at Virginia Tech (21-9, 10-8) Saturday.
Collins had been on a 12-consecutive game 20+ point tear, but had that snapped — largely because of foul trouble.
He picked up his second foul with 8:34 left in the first half with the Deacs down six. All season long, Wake coach Danny Manning had pulled Collins after picking up two in the first half. He left he in Saturday.
Less than a minute later, Collins picked up his third and he sat for the final 7:43 having gone scoreless with just a pair of boards for his effort.
The Hokies built their lead to a game-high 13 points less than two minutes after Collins sitting, but Wake responded with a Bryant Crawford-fueled 14-4 lead.
Crawford drained a 3-pointer right in the face of Hokie defender Seth Allen and drew a foul to make it a 4-point play. When Crawford sank another from behind the arc with 2:32 left in the half, the Deacs had closed the lead to three at 41-38.
Crawford finished with a game-high 26 points on 5-of-8 shooting. He was 3-of-5 behind the arc, 13-for-14 at the foul stripe, and had five assists against zero turnovers.
They remarkably trailed by just five at the half despite allowing 55.6 percent shooting by Virginia Tech and getting pretty much no contribution from Collins.
An 8-2 run to start the 2nd half for Virginia Tech built the lead back to 11, as Manning sat Collins.
Collins returned to the floor at the 16:56 mark and scored on the next three Wake possessions.
Collins contributed 13 points and nine boards on just 21 minutes played, his shortest playing time total since charting 20 minutes in a six-point home loss to North Carolina. Collins scored just six in that contest.
A Mitchell Wilbekin 3-pointer with 10:59 left in the game made it 66-65, giving Wake it’s first lead since early in the first half (3-2).
Virginia Tech’s Justin Bibbs converted a layup with 9:06 as the Hokies regained the lead by a deuce, but Wake responded with another Bryant Crawford fueled run — this time a decisive 11-2 advantage from which the Deacs never looked back.
Austin Arians tied a season high with 15 points and Crawford tied his career high with 26.
Keyshawn Woods chipped in 14 and Brandon Childress was the fifth Deacs in double figures with 11.
Wake begins play as the No. 10 seed in the ACC Tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn at 2 p.m. Tuesday against Boston College. The winner of that game will face Virginia Tech at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the second round.