Winston-Salem, NC - Don Quixote sang "The Impossible Dream" in the musical "Man of La Mancha," which Wake Forest (10-8, 3-3 ACC) made real when it made a furious rally in the second half on its way to a dramatic 86-84 upset, court-rushing win over No. 18 NC State (15-4, 4-2 ACC) after trailing the Wolfpack by 16 points late in the first half.
T.J. Warren had not heard of Devin Thomas before the game, but there is no way he will forget him. Thomas, who was a monster in the paint, led Wake with a game-high and a career-high 25 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and three steals.
"Our fans were there for us," Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "Our team battled back. I used the term resilient last time I sat in this chair here, and they are. There's great character in the locker room [and] great passion. They battled back. They fought hard with the support of our fans."
"And Devin Thomas … what an effort. You look at his line … Good gracious, what can you say?"
The 6-foot-9 freshman forward from Harrisburg, Pa. outplayed All-ACC bigs Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie, and destroyed 7-footer Jordan Vandenberg. Thomas took advantage of their foul trouble, and grew more confident with each bucket he made, board he pulled down and shot he blocked.
He resembled the Hulk at times when he shook his hands arms at the fans and yelled out of excitement.
"I think I had a lot of success by us getting C.J. Leslie in foul trouble," Thomas said. "He likes to come from the weak side and get a lot of block shots. That helped a lot, but Richard [Howell] is a good player. He's strong, physical, one of the best post men in the league, but I was just confident each time I kept getting the ball. I think that had a lot to do with it."
The Deacs desperately needed Thomas' confidence after a woeful first half that would have been significantly worse if was not for his efforts. State had Wake bloodied, bruised and left for dead with a 47-35 advantage at the intermission.
Bzdelik implored his team to fight back at halftime.
"I thought we were tentative," Bzdelik said. "I thought they were unsure. We didn't have that belief that we can play, and I really challenged them, and they responded."
Bzdelik may have gotten the greatest response from Codi Miller-McIntyre. He sensed the Pack walked into Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum like it owned the place, and said he felt disrespected. Instead of casting blame Miller-McIntyre answered with 13 of his 15 points after the break.
"We just came out fighting in the second," Miller-McIntyre said. "We showed that weren't going to let them come in and walk over us."
"Sometimes I have a problem of second-guessing myself at the beginning of games. I don't know why, but after I get into the motions and also I realize I can do this any time I want to that's when it cuts on."
The lights of belief began to cut on for the Demon Deacons when they trimmed their deficit under 10, and shone brightly when they led by as many as 10 when Arnaud Adala Moto made a layup with 4:11 left in regulation following C.J. Harris' departure after he took an elbow to his left eye at the 4:24 mark.
NC State quickly made its move in Harris' absence. The Wolfpack surged with a 10-3 scoring run before he returned with 0:29.9 remaining in the game.
Harris, who finished with 10 points, came back in time to make 1-2 free throws with 0:22.7 to go.
"The vision cleared up just enough, so I could make that last one," Harris said.
McKie, who added 16 points, sank two of those from the charity stripe with three ticks left to give Wake a four-point lead before Leslie answered with a layup to bring the Wolfpack within two.
Officials then added 0.5 seconds to the clock to make it 0:01.2 left in the game. Warren proceeded to steal McKie's inbounds pass and heave a three-pointer that fell short as time expired.
"When we came out of the huddle Coach [Bzdelik] said throw it to Devin [Thomas], so he can just tip it," McKie said. "As soon as I got the ball it changed to 0:01.2 and I didn't know, so we got fortunate. I'll say that."
--- Wake Forest's freshmen scored 60 of its 86 points and pulled down 30 of its 40 rebounds.
--- NC State did have four more rebounds than Wake, but the Deacs had a 24-16 edge in second-chance points.
--- The Demon Deacons tied a season-high in blocks with nine to the Wolfpack's six.
--- Wake Forest improved its shooting by 20.7-percent in the second half, as NC State dropped by 14.4-percent in the same category.
--- NC State won both of last season's meetings by a combined 47 points, which makes this win for Wake even more impressive.
--- This is the first win over a ranked team and first win over a Big Four foe in the Bzdelik era, making the court-storming by fans all the more appropriate.
Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik
Opening statement: "First of all I want to thank our fans. Our fans really were behind us, and never gave up on us especially when we were down 16."
Coach, how satisfying is it to see the court stormed and so many Wake fans so happy after so much losing after the last two years? "We live in the moment, and this is a great moment."
NC State head coach Mark Gottfried
Opening statement: "My first thought is hats off to Wake Forest. They played phenomenal in the second half. I thought that the difference was I don't think we defended nearly as well as we could in the second half."
"You have to give them credit. They made a lot of tough shots, came up with a lot of loose balls and offensive rebounds. They did a great job and we did not, so that's on us."
"We have to be a lot better than that and defend a lot better than that in the 40 minute period. The name of that game for NC State was we have to guard better. Period."