Virginia Tech upsets top-ranked Wake Forest
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Hank Thorns screamed in jubilation as he came off a hostile court proudly holding out his Virginia Tech jersey. A hundred or so fans hung around the visitors' tunnel to chant coach Seth Greenberg's name.
Whoop it up, Hokies. You just knocked off No. 1 -- again.
Malcolm Delaney scored 21 points and Virginia Tech held on to upset top-ranked Wake Forest 78-71 on Wednesday night for its second victory over a No. 1 team in three seasons.
"Just coming onto their home court and doing it -- that makes it feel a little more special," A.D. Vassallo said.
Vassallo and Jeff Allen added 16 points apiece for the Hokies (12-6, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who made all the big shots while lighting up the league's best defense -- shooting 50 percent against a Wake Forest team that was allowing teams to shoot just 36 percent. None of the Demon Deacons' first 16 opponents shot better than 47 percent.
"We spread them out. We had a lot of movement. Coach told us that if we moved them, we'd get the shots that we want," Delaney said.
The Hokies led nearly from the opening tip to the final buzzer, pushed their lead to 16 and made it stand up for their first win over a top-ranked team away from Cassell Coliseum. They beat then-No. 1 North Carolina two seasons ago in Blacksburg.
"With these guys being undefeated, that's totally a big one," Delaney said.
Jeff Teague scored 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting and James Johnson added 18 points before fouling out with 1:17 remaining for Wake Forest (16-1, 3-1), which was playing as a No. 1 team for the first time since November 2004 when Chris Paul was running the show.
That team held the top spot for two weeks. These Demon Deacons won't match them, thanks in large part to a Virginia Tech team that forced 16 turnovers and turned them into 25 points.
"You never want to lose, but I'm kind of glad we got it out the way," Teague said. "Everybody was trying to play perfect, and everybody didn't want to mess up and things like that, because they wanted to stay No. 1. But now we've got that out the way, we're just going to get back to doing what we were doing."
The Demon Deacons' early 16-point deficit was by far its deepest -- before this game, they hadn't trailed by double figures all season -- and they trailed by 10 at halftime before they made it a game again. They used a 14-4 run early in the second half that brought them within single digits and then cut it to two twice in the final four minutes -- the last coming when Teague's 3-pointer with 1:49 remaining made it 71-69.
"We had them right where we wanted them," Teague said.
But Delaney hit two free throws seven seconds later and the Hokies allowed one field goal after that to clinch their fourth straight win -- one of the biggest victories in school history.
Virginia Tech improved to 3-6 against top-ranked teams -- and continued its dominance of the Demon Deacons. The Hokies have won five of their last six meetings with Wake Forest.
"You have to play at a really, really high level every night to have a chance," Greenberg said. "Now our challenge is not to drink the Kool-Aid. ... The second we get to Blacksburg, it's over with, because in this league, it can be very fleeting. You can be on top of the world one day, and you can be finished the next."
A prime example of that: The Demon Deacons' school-record 16-0 start, which now is history. Their next home game -- a Jan. 28 showdown with Duke -- suddenly looks less appealing now that it might not be a 1-vs.-2 matchup.
"I think we got them at a good time," Greenberg said. "I don't want to take anything away from what we accomplished. ... I don't think they were looking ahead, but human nature's human nature."
L.D. Williams finished with 12 points and Al-Farouq Aminu added 10 for Wake Forest, which looked nothing like the nation's top-ranked team early on.
Then again, that's largely because the Hokies' physical defense took the Demon Deacons out of their game.
Virginia Tech erased its only lead of the half by outscoring them 23-6 over an 11-minute span, going up 30-14 on Victor Davila's layup with 4:18 remaining.
"Our defense really let us down tonight," Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio said. "That part's a little bit disheartening."
Wake Forest didn't attempt a free throw in the first half -- while the Hokies were 10-for-14 from the stripe -- and for a stretch of 13 minutes, Teague was the only Demon Deacon to score. The rest of his teammates were a combined 0-for-9 during that span.
"We're going to find out about our guys a little bit," Gaudio said. "There's tough kids in that locker room. There's no doubt in my mind that they'll bow their necks ... and go back to work."
2022-23 Atlantic Coast Conference Standings