No. 4 Wake tops No. 3 UNC 92-89
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP)—Wake Forest spent the last few years trying to recreate the magic of Chris Paul. They’ve finally done it—by not trying so hard to become an exact copy of his final team.
Still, a few similarities can’t hurt—like having yet another high-scoring point guard.
Behind Jeff Teague’s career-high 34 points, the fourth-ranked Demon Deacons held on for a 92-89 triumph over No. 3 North Carolina on Sunday night that marked the first big victory of the season for coach Dino Gaudio’s young but talented team.
“I remember these last three years, we’d try to be like the Chris Paul team. You try to fulfill that role. … We had everybody trying to fulfill a role, but us as a team, we have our own identity,” said guard Harvey Hale, the team’s only senior on scholarship. “That’s why we’re good.”
Chas McFarland matched a season high with 20 points for the Demon Deacons (14-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who remained one of three unbeatens in Division I and matched the 1980-81 team that also won its first 14 games.
Not that they’re looking for a place in history, yet. Not with their next game coming Wednesday against the same Boston College team that a week ago gave North Carolina its first loss of the season. A year ago, the Eagles beat Wake Forest to kill the buzz of its upset of then-No. 2 Duke.
“Guys are more mature now, grown up,” Teague said. “We understand that what we did was a big win, but we’ve got to move forward.”
Danny Green scored 22 points, and Wayne Ellington and Tyler Hansbrough added 17 apiece. Hansbrough’s came on 3-of-12 shooting, and he missed all five of his shots in the second half for the Tar Heels (14-2, 0-2).
“It seems like teams are playing me more physical and trying to push me outside,” Hansbrough said. “But it’s on me to get inside and get my position.”
The rest of his teammates probably have lost their prime position in the polls, too.
In a span of eight days, the once-unanimous No. 1 team in the nation has lost two of three and shares last place in the ACC with Georgia Tech.
North Carolina has lost its first two league games for the first time since 1996-97, when it started 0-3, and coach Roy Williams’ team has been hampered by the absence of top defender Marcus Ginyard, who missed his second straight game and has been slow to recover from offseason foot surgery.
“I know this team. I know the character we have on this team,” Green said. “I don’t question how tough we are. I know we’re going to bounce back and keep pushing forward. No matter how many losses you’re going to take, I feel like this team is going to be where we need to be when it comes to that point in the season.”
Wake Forest led for most of the second half, but the Tar Heels made things interesting late by twice closing within three points in the final minute.
After Will Graves’ 3-pointer made it 91-89 with 4.7 seconds left, Teague knocked down a free throw with 3.3 seconds remaining to end the scoring.
Graves’ desperation heave from halfcourt hit off the backboard and sent the tie-dye-clad Screamin’ Demons student section onto the court to celebrate one of Wake Forest’s most nationally significant victories since Paul’s final team— also ranked No. 4—knocked off the then-No. 3 Tar Heels four years ago.
That team under Skip Prosser made it to No. 1 for the first time in school history. With the best friend of the late coach on the bench, these Demon Deacons also are starting to develop that type of look.
And just as then, their star guard with an uncanny knack for hitting the big shots has them clicking again.
Teague clearly outplayed his counterpart—North Carolina’s Ty Lawson, who finished 4-for-12 from the field, missed all four of his 3s and turned it over four times.
Teague entered with an ACC-leading average of 19.6 points—Hansbrough’s average of 22 points would have been tops in the league had he played in at least 75 percent of North Carolina’s games.
“He was our lion,” Gaudio said of Teague. “He was not going to let us lose.”
Instead, he finished 9-of-17 from the field, hit three of four 3-pointers and was 13-of-15 from the free throw line. During one second-half stretch, Teague slashed his way through the lane for layups on three consecutive possessions.
“I told Jeff Teague that was about as good a performance as I’ve seen in a long time against a team that I’m coaching,” Williams said.
Playing in front of a record Joel Coliseum crowd of 14,714 that included one-time Wake Forest guard Muggsy Bogues, former coach Dave Odom—and a student dressed as Dino from “The Flintstones” in honor of Gaudio—the Demon Deacons started strong and twice led by nine in the first half.
And just as he did early in last season’s Duke upset, Teague came out firing.
He scored 10 of his team’s first 14 points, and Wake Forest forced the Tar Heels to miss 11 of their first 15 shots before things tightened up—once North Carolina responded with a 10-2 run midway through the half, neither team led by more than six until Teague put Wake Forest up 70-63 with a free throw with 9 minutes remaining.
That came after Teague’s two free throws with 14:07 remaining made it 58-57 and put the Demon Deacons in front to stay.
“We made big plays down the stretch—that’s all I can say,” Teague said.