There were those who thought it impossible for the vaunted North Carolina Tar Heels to lose a second consecutive conference game to open ACC play, but the Demon Deacons had other ideas. In a long, drawn out battle, Wake played the better second half and emerged with a 92-89 victory in front of a record crowd of 14,714 very loud Wake Forest fans.
The win improves Wake's record to 14-0 overall and opens their ACC record at 1-0. The 14-0 start is tied for the second best start in school history.
If the nation didn't know who Jeff Teague was before tonight, they certainly do now. Teague led Wake with a career high 34 points, added 4 assists, and was the heart and soul of the Deacon onslaught.
Against Tyler Hansbrough, one of the toughest big men in the country, Chas McFarland played as well as could possibly be expected of him, contributing 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks. His defensive effort held Hansbrough to only 17 points on 3-12 shooting, making him score mostly from the free throw line.
James Johnson and Al-Farouq Aminu didn't have their most impressive nights, but they were solid contributors when needed, both providing huge dunks late in the second half to extend leads, and energize the team and crowd. Both Harvey Hale and Tony Woods contributed nicely off the bench to provide needed boosts.
"I just though it was a great college basketball game," said head coach Dino Gaudio. "If we would have been on the other end of that I would have said the same thing. It was a great atmosphere. The people saw two pretty good teams. It's a good win against a great basketball team."
The first half was a back and forth battle that included six ties and seven lead changes. Both teams would go on a run before the other would answer, and the half ended deadlocked at 44. The second half started similarly, with the teams exchanging leads and ties all the way up to the 13:27 mark. A quick five point burst from Tony Woods and Jeff Teague provided Wake the momentum they needed, and they never again lost the lead.
The game was hardly over, as Carolina would cut the lead to as few as two points with 11:37 left on the clock. From there a 7-2 run gave Wake a 7 point lead and enough momentum to carry the game.
Wake Forest's defense was excellent, forcing 18 turnovers and holding the Tar Heels to only 35% shooting from the field. Carolina was even worse from beyond the arc, where they only made 6 of 23 shots. North Carolina kept themselves in the game by picking up 21 offense rebounds to contribute 17 second chance points, but ultimately Wake had enough firepower to overcome their poor rebounding.
"I thought or defense in the second half did a great job of getting back and keeping them from transitioning," said Gaudio. "We worked a lot this season on getting our defense where it needs to be. Our field goal percentages defensively were they keys."
The Tar Heels made a push late in the game with improved three point shooting and a couple of poor plays by Wake, but Teague was unfazed and got the job done at the free throw line, knocking down 13-15 on the game and five of his last six.
There is little doubt that this is one of the biggest wins Wake has had in recent memory. Certainly there have been some big wins, such as last year's upset of Duke here in Winston-Salem, but this victory should propel the Deacons farther up in allows them to join the top of the ACC standings.
The Deacs won't have long to enjoy the victory, as they must travel north to play Boston College on Wednesday night before playing again at Clemson on Saturday afternoon.