ANAHEIM, Calif. — Wake Forest pushed No. 14 Arizona into some nervous moments before falling short 73-66 in Sunday night’s championship game of the Wooden Legacy — which was the normal portion of a strange 24 hours or so for the Deacons.
Arizona (9-0) staved off a late rally from Wake Forest (5-3), which cut what was a 15-point lead with 8:15 left to four, at 68-64, with 45.3 seconds left.
It was all under the backdrop of Wake Forest playing without a few players under serious allegations that the program is gathering information on.
Roughly 12 minutes before the game started, Coach Danny Manning released a statement that acknowledged a situation brought to light on Twitter late Saturday night that included the use of a homophobic slur and other problematic behavior during the team’s trip to Disneyland on Saturday.
“Last night it was brought to my attention that a few of our student-athletes may have behaved in a manner that does not reflect the standards and values of Wake Forest Basketball and our University,” Manning’s statement reads. “Wake Forest takes these very seriously and is reviewing the situation. I’m sad that we’re in this situation, but the players in question will not participate in tonight’s game.”
The players in question are freshman guard Jahcobi Neath and sophomore guard Mike Wynn. They were held out of the game.
“Wake Forest student-athletes represent their families, our men’s basketball program and the University and are accountable for upholding our standards,” Manning’s statement concluded.
In the game, Olivier Sarr turned in his third straight strong performance in the tournament, scoring 21 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. It’s his third double-double in the last four games, and in the three Wooden Legacy games Sarr averaged 17 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.
Arizona was paced by Dylan Smith, who scored 20 points on 6-for-9 shooting, and Chase Jeter, who had 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting. Without their combined 13-for-19 from the field, Arizona made 12 of 39 shots.
The Deacons weren’t much better from the field if you remove Sarr’s 6-for-10 — the rest of the Deacons were 13 for 49.
Wake Forest led 23-16 after nine minutes on the strength of a 10-0 run. But that advantage didn’t last long — Arizona went on a 19-3 run, ignited by 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions by Max Hazzard.
After Wake Forest sliced the Wildcats’ lead to six going into halftime, Arizona stayed somewhat comfortably ahead of Wake Forest until the final few minutes.