When North Carolina came to the Joel last season, they were ranked No. 8 in the nation, and embarrassed Wake Forest in a historically dominant 95-57 win, the largest margin of defeat in their 228 game series history.
This year, however, Carolina’s team looks much different from that squad after losing their top five scorers. The team seemed to have elevated their level of play in recent games, losing their last three games by a combined nine points. Last time out, the Tar Heels fell in overtime at the buzzer to No. 7 Duke.
Yet for the first time since 2014, the Demon Deacons (11-13, 4-10) were able to defeat rival North Carolina (10-14, 3-10), 74-57 at home Tuesday night.
“Wake Forest had more want to be out there today, more effort, more enthusiasm, better coaching, everything that was involved in the course of the game, they had it better than we did,” said UNC Head Coach Roy Williams.
About halfway through the first half, up 12-10, Wake Forest decided to turn on the jets. The Deacs exploded on a 32-16 run, seizing a 44-26 lead going into the break.
The run was highlighted by a four point play by redshirt senior guard Andrien White, that stretched the lead to 10 for the first time of the game. White had 12 in the first half, and 15 for the game, continuing his strong stretch of play.
“We were desperate for this one,” White said. “Everyone came in and did what they needed to do.”
The Deacs stayed hot to open up the second half, extending the lead to as much as 26. But Carolina was able to claw their way back into the game.
“Carolina is a very talented team,” said Head Coach Danny Manning. “We knew they were going to make runs.”
From the 16-minute mark to the three, North Carolina outscored Wake Forest 29-12. The Deacs couldn’t buy a basket, and also were desperately trying to slow down the pace of the game.
The Tar Heels were able to trim the lead down to single digits, but the spurt died out in the final two minutes. Senior guard Christian Keeling missed an open 3-pointer from the right-wing when UNC was down nine.
Freshman point guard Cole Anthony, Carolina’s best player, and presumed 2020 NBA lottery pick, played a pretty poor game for his standards. Don’t be deceived by his 15 points, six rebounds and four assists, Anthony missed 14 shots, went 0-6 from downtown, and turned the ball over seven times.
Manning coached Anthony when he was in high school for Team USA, and almost swayed the five-star recruit to Wake Forest, but he elected to play for Williams instead in Chapel Hill.
“He’s a heck of a player,” said senior Brandon Childress. “It was a great opportunity to get to compete with someone like that. And I wanted to take on the challenge.”
Not only did he take on the challenge, he played one of his best games of the season.
“[Childress] did a great job distributing the ball, handling that pressure,” Manning said. “To only have two turnovers, with 10 assists, was outstanding.”
The 10 helpers set a new career high for the senior floor general. He attacked the basket hard off the dribble all game, adding 14 points as well.
“I thought Childress did a great job of running their club,” Williams said.
Junior guard Chaundee Brown scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 25 minutes, as he continues to be eased back into action after his injury. Junior center Olivier Sarr was limited to just 13 minutes of action, and was walking around campus with a boot on his right foot Wednesday morning.
The game was also the Deacs’ annual pink game for cancer research, which Wake Forest has now won for the sixth straight season. Attendance was 10,894, easily the most packed it’s been this year. Tar heel blue was slightly more prevalent than old gold and black in the crowd, but the student section had its greatest turnout of the season.
The Demon Deacons will travel to Miami for an afternoon battle on Saturday, before returning to Winston-Salem to host Georgia Tech on Wednesday.