GREENSBORO — Losing the opening game of the ACC tournament and being back on campus by the afternoon would’ve obviously been a sour result for Wake Forest’s women’s basketball team.
So the 13th-seeded Deacons’ 83-73 win over North Carolina on Wednesday at the Greensboro Coliseum was a welcomed result, in that regard.
“Losing that first game last year … was really hard on us and we knew that we wanted to come out really stronger this year and just make a movement in the tournament and do something good,” sophomore forward Christina Morra said.
The win also keeps alive hopes for a postseason berth.
Running the table here for an ACC tournament would seem to be a stretch — but winning Thursday’s game against Virginia Tech would guarantee the Deacons (15-15) finish at least .500, which is the floor for a WNIT bid.
“We started talking about that two weeks ago … and what our scenario was to be eligible for the NIT,” Coach Jen Hoover said. “We said we didn’t want to talk about the NIT yet we could work and once you win one game it’s what can you do in the next game.
“It’s a quick turnaround and we will play a team that presents a lot of challenges for us. … This time of year everybody knows what everybody does and what everybody runs and it’s a matter of who can execute it on the floor.”
Wake Forest was in the WNIT in 2016 and 2017, but was a combined 24-37 in the past two seasons. The Deacons’ seven regular-season ACC wins, plus Wednesday’s, make this the most ACC wins Hoover has had in any of her eight seasons as coach.
Virginia Tech beat Wake Forest 73-62 in the teams’ only meeting this season. The fifth-seeded Hokies outrebounded Wake Forest 39-34 in that game — and that was one of the biggest strengths for Wake Forest against North Carolina.
The Deacons held a 47-22 rebounding advantage Wednesday, piling up 32 second-chance points.
Junior forward Ivana Raca matched her career-high with 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, her fifth double-double of the season. Senior guard Alex Sharp also had a double-double with 19 points — 16 of those coming in the second half — and 10 rebounds, while Morra had 19 points and nine rebounds.
“This is my senior year so I wanted to go into this game saying play every game like it’s your last,” Sharp said. “So I wasn’t going to second-guess my shot at all, I was just going to put it up.”
When Sharp got going, the Deacons pulled away.
Back and forth the third quarter went, with eight lead changes. The Deacons came out on top after scoring the final six points of the quarter, four of them by Raca.
North Carolina (16-14) scored the first basket of the fourth quarter to make it a 61-58 Deacons lead, and then Wake Forest rolled off an 18-3 run over the next 4½ minutes. The Tar Heels never came within single digits for the rest of the game.
Sharp had seven points during the game-deciding spurt.
“I thought we got into a groove and put the peddle down and that was key for us,” Hoover said.