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Wake Forest hands No. 2 Miami its first ACC loss, 80-65

The SportsXchange

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Waning confidence had been a concern for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

That should no longer be an issue after a stunning conquest of confidence-rich Miami, the nation's No. 2 team.

"We had all week to prepare for this game and put the last couple of games, which were really tough, behind us," senior guard C.J. Harris said after the shocking 80-65 victory against Miami on Saturday at Lawrence Joel Coliseum.

Harris scored 23 points as Miami's quest for an undefeated Atlantic Coast Conference season ended.

Miami suffered its first loss of 2013 and its 14-game winning streak came to a halt in the only scheduled meeting between the teams this season. It was the most points allowed by the Hurricanes this season.

"Wake Forest played very well," Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. "C.J. Harris was terrific in the first half, and I think that gave his entire team a lot of confidence. ... Every player in the first half for them was very sharp. Wake Forest was going to have a lot of energy. They had a whole week to prepare."

Wake Forest (12-14, 5-9 in the ACC), which began the day in a three-way tie for ninth place, burst to a 19-point first-half lead and withstood Miami's surge early in the second half.

Miami (22-4, 13-1), which trailed 61-45 with less than eight minutes to play after Madison Jones' three-point play for the Demon Deacons, couldn't forge another comeback after last-minute escapes in its previous two games.

"We knew Miami would make a run," Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "They're the No. 2 team in the country and they've come back. ... Our guys never wavered. You could see it in their eyes."

Confidence grew for the Demon Deacons, who had lost six of seven games since toppling then-No. 18 North Carolina State.

"Everybody questioned our confidence," Bzdelik said. "People asked me, 'Where's the confidence level of this team?' ... We turned it around and said, 'Guys, we can correct this.' "

Now the Hurricanes have a list of correctable items.

"If we play on the defensive end," Miami guard Shane Larkin said of the team's shortcomings on this day. "Defense is pretty much effort and pride."

Larranaga said Miami's poor shot selection led to out-of-sync defense at the other end of the court.

"We need to play together. We weren't very together," Larranaga said. "We need to get two good practices in and we have to get focused as a team. I think you learn from every game, whether you win or lose."

Wake Forest's 42-23 lead late in the first half dwindled to 42-29 at the break. The Hurricanes hadn't trailed by more than 12 points in any previous ACC game this season.

Durand Scott, who missed all four of his first-half shots, had six of his 17 points in the first six minutes of the second half as the Hurricanes closed to within 46-41. Larkin finished with 13 points.

Wake Forest's Codi Miller-McIntyre added 15 points.

Miami forward Julian Gamble was charged with his fourth foul with 17:43 to play. Still, Wake Forest used two timeouts in less than four minutes to start the second half.

Miami hit three 3-point shots in the first 7 1/2 minutes to help withstand Wake Forest's initial surge.

But the Demon Deacons knocked in a couple 3-pointers, with Harris' long-range shot in transition giving Wake Forest a 24-15 edge and causing the Hurricanes to call a timeout with 7:16 to play in the half.

"We just forced the issue," Wake Forest forward Travis McKie said.

When Harris hit another 3-pointer on Wake Forest's next possession, the gap grew to 27-17. That was as many first-half points for the Demon Deacons as they had scored in three of their previous five games.

Harris' next 3-pointer built the margin to 30-17 and his fifth long ball made it 40-23.

Harris was 5-for-5 on 3-pointers and 0-for-5 on shots inside the arc in the first half. That matched his 3-point total from the previous four games combined.

Wake Forest, which hadn't played in a week since a one-point home loss to Georgia Tech, shot 54.2 percent (26 of 48) from the field.

Reserve forward Tyler Cavanaugh of Wake Forest, who didn't play in the second half a week earlier, scored seven first-half points on 3-for-3 shooting against Miami on his way to nine points.

Miami's bid for its first ACC title remains in good shape with four games remaining: at home against Virginia Tech, at Duke and home games against Georgia Tech and Clemson.

Of those, only No. 6 Duke sits in the upper half of the ACC standings.

NOTES: Trey McKinney Jones of Miami crashed to the floor with 3:49 left in the first half, limping to the locker room for further evaluation. He had eight of Miami's 21 points at the time and he was on the court for the start of the second half. He ended up with 11 points. ... Miami entered the game with 10 road victories, tops in the nation among teams from major conferences. ... Wake Forest is 3-1 all-time against top-five teams other than Duke or North Carolina at Lawrence Joel Coliseum. ... Miami senior Reggie Johnson scored four points in his hometown. ... The start of the game was delayed a few minutes when not all the arena lighting came back on following pregame introductions.
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