Wake Forest’s first ACC victory over a ranked opponent since Danny Manning became head coach could hardly have come at a better time.
Manning’s Deacons took a giant step toward their first NCAA Tournament appearance in seven seasons by storming past eighth-ranked Louisville 88-81 Wednesday at Joel Coliseum. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Dinos Mitoglou and Mitchell Wilbekin gave Wake Forest a commanding nine-point lead with two minutes remaining, and the Deacons put the game away by making 6 of 10 free throws in the final 1:29.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” Manning said. “We just haven’t been able to finish the way we finished tonight.”
The victory improved Wake Forest to 17-12 overall and 8-9 in conference play with its first victory of the season over a team ranked above No. 36 in the Ratings Performance Index. Louisville fell to 23-7 and 11-6.
“Wake Forest should be congratulated, they played with great intensity,” coach Rick Pitino of Louisville said. “They probably put themselves in the NCAA Tournament by beating us.”
The Deacons’ last victory over a ranked ACC opponent came against fourth-ranked Duke 82-72 on March 5, 2014, in Jeff Bzdelik’s final season as head coach.
John Collins, a candidate for ACC Player of the Year, led the upset with 25 points and 11 rebounds, while making 7 of 12 shots from the floor.
“He’s by far the best post player in our league, if not the country,” Pitino said.
Keyshawn Woods contributed 20 points, four rebounds and four assists, and Bryant Crawford and Mitoglou added 12 each.
Deng Adel led Louisville with 22 points, and Quentin Snider finished with 15. Donovan Mitchell, the Cardinals’ sophomore star, battled foul trouble and managed only seven points and four rebounds in 30 minutes.
The Deacons, after falling behind by 14 in the first 11 minutes, finished the first half with a flourish to pull to 43-42 on Mitchell Wilbekin’s 3-pointer with four seconds left.
Capitalizing on foul trouble by Louisville, Wake Forest barged back into contention by outscoring the Cardinals 12-2 over the final three and a half minutes of the half. The rally began after Donovan Mitchell, Louisville’s sophomore candidate for ACC Player of the Year, was assessed his second foul with 5:20 left, forcing him to the bench for the rest of the half.
Crawford began the surge with a pullup jumper, but the rally picked up steam two possessions later when Wilbekin took a pass from Brandon Childress and drained a 3-pointer from the right corner to pull the Deacons to 41-35. With Louisville being held scoreless for four straight possessions, Wake Forest kept up the momentum going with a dunk by Collins, a follow shot by Woods and Wilbekin’s 3-pointer of the final possessions.
Louisville scored the first basket of the second half on a follow shot by Anas Mahmoud, but it did little to slow the Deacons down. Mitoglou answered with a 3-pointer, Crawford stole the ball and scored on a breakaway layup, and Austin Arians hit a 3-pointer, extending the lead to 50-45 and prompting Pitino to call timeout with 17:20 remaining.
Pitino, one of four ACC coaches in the College Basketball Hall of Fame, helped fuel the Deacons’ run by picking up a technical foul. Official Brian Dorsey assessed the technical when Pitino disputed a call against Ray Spalding that sent Collins to the line.
Brandon Childress made one of two shots on the technical and Collins made both free throws for a 55-47 lead with 15:19 remaining.
The Deacons extended the lead to 11 points twice in the second half, at 58-47 and 65-54. Louisville chopped the lead to three at 73-70 and 75-72 before the pair of 3-pointers by Mitoglou and Wilbekin gave the Deacons an 81-72 lead with 2:11 left in the game.
Manning, on the occasion of Seniors’ Night, started a lineup that included Arians, Trent VanHorn and Greg McClinton for what is expected to be their final game at Joel Coliseum. Arians is a graduate transfer from Milwaukee, VanHorn is a senior who earned a scholarship for his final two seasons and McClinton is a redshirt junior who plans to graduate this May.
LOUISVILLE (23-7) — Mahmoud 0-0 0-2 0, Spalding 4-7 1-2 9, Adel 9-16 3-3 22, Donovan Mitchell 2-9 2-2 7, Snider 5-12 3-3 15, King 0-0 0-0 0, Johnson 4-5 4-4 13, Mathiang 5-10 2-2 12, Stockman 0-0 0-0 0, Levitch 0-0 0-0 0, Hicks 0-1 3-4 3, Henderson 0-0 0-0 0, McMahon 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-61 18-22 81.
WAKE FOREST (17-12) — Arians 1-4 2-2 5, Collins 7-12 11-12 25, McClinton 0-0 0-0 0, Crawford 4-15 3-6 12, VanHorn 0-0 0-0 0, Mitoglou 3-6 4-6 12, Japhet-Mathias 0-0 0-0 0, Moore 0-0 0-0 0, Childress 1-3 1-2 3, Woods 7-12 3-6 20, Wilbekin 3-4 2-2 11. Totals 26-56 26-36 88.
Halftime–Louisville 43-42. 3-Point Goals–Louisville 5-18 (Snider 2-5, Johnson 1-1, Adel 1-3, Donovan Mitchell 1-8, McMahon 0-1), Wake Forest 10-24 (Wilbekin 3-3, Woods 3-6, Mitoglou 2-5, Arians 1-3, Crawford 1-6, Childress 0-1). Fouled Out–Donovan Mitchell, Johnson. Rebounds–Louisville 34 (Mathiang 10), Wake Forest 32 (Collins 11). Assists–Louisville 12 (Donovan Mitchell, Adel 3), Wake Forest 13 (Childress, Woods 4). Total Fouls–Louisville 27, Wake Forest 17. Technicals–Louisville coach Rick Pitino. A–11,488 (14,665).
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