Coming off three straight wins against unranked teams, Wake Forest has its final test before beginning conference play as it hosts 14th-ranked Texas on Saturday afternoon.
The sixth-ranked Deamon Deacons (8-1) were at No. 1 before a 91-73 loss at then-No. 5 Illinois on Dec. 1. Wake Forest has bounced back with wins against Richmond, Temple and Elon, and after this matchup with the Longhorns, it will have two more games before opening Atlantic Coast Conference play on Jan. 2.
Chris Paul had 14 points and 11 assists for his first career double-double as the Demon Deacons defeated Elon 85-67 on Wednesday. Paul, the leading vote-getter on the AP’s preseason All-America team, also matched a career high with six steals and grabbed five rebounds. His 11 assists were the most by a Wake Forest player since Randolph Childress had that many at Georgia Tech on Feb. 11, 1994.
Kyle Visser added 13 points for the Deamon Deacons, who did not take the lead for good until Justin Gray’s 3-pointer made it 49-47 with 15:40 left in the second half. Wake Forest shot a season-high 58 percent (23-of-53) from the field, but was a season-low 55 percent (16-of-29) from the free throw line.
“Sometimes, playing well is more important,” Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser said Friday. “At times, we haven’t played to our abilities. As a coach, as a teacher, as a mentor, if you will, your job is to get them to play the best they can.”
Wake Forest also struggled Monday in a 67-64 win at Temple. Reserve forward Trent Strickland scored all nine of his points in the final 9 minutes and the Demon Deacons went 5-for-6 from the free throw line over the final 2 minutes to avoid being upset.
Like Wake Forest, Texas (7-1) tuned up for this game with an unconvincing win against an overmatched opponent. P.J. Tucker had 17 points and 10 rebounds for his ninth career double-double as the Longhorns defeated Texas-Arlington 85-70 on Wednesday. The 6-foot-5 Tucker, a Raleigh native, made 6 of 14 shots in 31 minutes.
“I thought we played as if we thought that at any point we wanted to move the score up we could,” said Texas coach Rick Barnes, who also is a North Carolina native. “It’s not about that, it’s about execution. … It’s just sloppy. There’s no sense in trying to sugarcoat it.”
Jason Klotz and LaMarcus Aldridge each scored 14 points and Brad Buckman added 13 points and eight rebounds for the Longhorns, who allowed a 23-point halftime lead dwindle to 65-52 with about 8 minutes left. Texas hit just 18 of 30 free throws for the game and only 1 of 8 3-pointers over the final 20 minutes. The Longhorns are shooting 46.2 percent from the arc on the season.
Wake Forest leads the all-time series, 2-1. Last season, Texas was No. 18 when Tucker scored 21 points in a 94-81 home win over then-No. 4 Wake Forest on Jan. 13.