Winston-Salem, NC - Travis McKie was clutch when it mattered most by converting an and-one opportunity with 1:03 remaining in regulation to extend Wake Forest's three-point to a six-point advantage, while Arnaud Adala Moto iced the game with four free throws to help Wake Forest (11-3, 1-0 ACC) hang on to beat No. 19 North Carolina (10-4, 0-1 ACC) 73-67.
Wake overcame a 19-rebound deficit by holding the Tar Heels to 29-75 shooting from the field (38.7-percent), including 2-15 from three-point land (13.3-percent). The Demon Deacons also won the turnover battle, forcing UNC into 17 miscues compared to their 13. Wake out-rebounded the Heels 20-17 in the second half after North Carolina claimed a 36-14 edge on the boards in the first half.
"Our focus coming into this game was to limit our turnovers and do a good job on the boards; one-out-of-two isn't bad," Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik said.
"Turnovers and rebounds were our big focus coming into this game. I believe half of [UNC's] points came off offensive boards and scoring off turnovers. In the second half we did a much better job on the boards."
"We've grown up a lot. Last year all those freshmen learned the hard way. I don't even want to bring up last year, [but] lost seven games by six points or less and those little things make big differences in games."
McKie led all scorers with 16 points, scoring 10 of those in the second half, while Codi Miller-McIntyre scored 12 points, Tyler Cavanaugh added 11 points (9-11 free throws), Moto chipped in 11 points and rebounds off the bench and Devin Thomas nearly finished with a double-double (nine points and nine rebounds) despite sitting the final 10:49 of the first half after he picked up his second foul.
Wake's unsung hero was Aaron Rountree blocked four shots, made three steals and grabbed two rebounds in 14 minutes.
"Aaron Rountree gave us tremendous energy," Bzdelik said. "Arnaud grew up a lot today."
The Deacs, who trailed by as many as seven points in the first half, outscored Carolina 22-13 the final 12:25 of the first half to take a 34-32 lead into halftime and engineered a 15-2 run on its way to a 53-40 advantage with 10:08 left in the game before the Heels went on a 21-11 run to get within three, which was answered by McKie's three-point play at the 1:03 mark.
"I've been in some dark places," McKie said. "You win eight games in one year you come in here every night like you can't get it right, [but] this is a turning point in the program. Give credit to these young guys. They put in the work. They had their lumps and bumps their freshman year, but they're turning the corner this year. We're making a better run because of it."
Wake Forest held UNC guard Marcus Paige, who is averaging to 18.4 points per game, to eight points on 3-12 shooting from the field, including 1-8 from three-point range.
"They were guarding us, [and] we were just missing," North Carolina head coach Roy Williams said. Thomas and Cavanaugh have good size inside, but when you get the ball on an offensive rebound two or three feet from the basket, you should finish the play before you get fouled, but we didn't take it up very strong at that point."
"That hurt us; just unforced turnovers and not finishing plays around the basket were big for us the entire night. We never really did until the very end [when] we had a layup, a six-footer and a tip, but we didn't finish the plays around the basket. Give their defense some credit. They blocked six shots, but they affected a lot more than that."
The win is Wake Forest's third victory over a ranked team and the first over the Tar Heels during the Bzdelik era.
McKie and Miller-McIntyre said they will celebrate by rolling the quad with toilet paper, which is Demon Deacon tradition after a big win.