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Wake Forest's Brandon Childress (0) hit a 3-pointer near the end of the first half Tuesday against Miami to tie the game at 31. The Hurricanes, however, also hit one before the end of the half and held a 34-31 lead at halftime.
CHARLOTTE — A first half that featured Wake Forest repeating so many of its characteristics — some good, most bad — from the season morphed into a second half that amounted to too little, too late.
The end result was a 79-71 loss to Miami in the first round of the ACC Tournament, sending Wake Forest home from the Spectrum Center on Tuesday with nothing more than an 11-20 overall record for the third time in the past four seasons.
“We didn’t compete for 40 minutes,” sophomore guard Chaundee Brown said. “The second half we picked it up, started ball-pressuring them, competing and got some turnovers. And, you know, that led to us scoring points. But we didn’t do that for 40 minutes, and that killed us.”
It killed the Deacons’ season — one in which Wake Forest had an almost entirely new roster and wound up with an identical record to last season. It was a campaign that Wake Forest pledged would feature versatility and athleticism, and to an extent those things were present.
Just not in the form of any improvement in wins from a season ago.
“It was frustrating because I feel like at times, we’ve played good basketball as a team,” freshman forward Jaylen Hoard said. “But the results didn’t show, so I feel like that was the most-frustrating part this year.”
And now comes the aftermath, whatever that may be. Coach Danny Manning said it’s his hope to return as the Deacons' coach next season.
On May 1, Athletics Director Ron Wellman, 70, will retire after nearly 27 years, and John Currie will take over in that role. For Wake Forest’s players, the past week and a half hasn’t afforded much time to think about what a change in that position means for Manning's future.
“I pay attention to it a little bit. But I haven’t even met Mr. Currie yet, to be honest. I plan on meeting him soon,” Brown said. “I wish Mr. Wellman the best, he was a great guy. He supported us through it all, ups and downs.”
The downs during Tuesday’s game were that Wake Forest committed nine turnovers by the time it had 10 shots. With Miami’s leading scorer (Chris Lykes) and only interior presence (Ebuka Izundu) both in foul trouble in the first half, Wake Forest couldn’t build more than a three-point lead — and that even turned into a three-point deficit by the end of the first half.
Miami surged with a 12-2 run early in the second half, turning a one-point lead into a 48-37 advantage. There was a timeout by Manning in the midst of it, but it did little to fix Wake Forest’s defense.
“A lot of it is: just couldn’t stay in front of Lykes or (Zach) Johnson,” Manning said. “So it’s just needing to do a better job of sitting down and staying in front of the basketball.”
Five Wake Forest players finished the game in double-figure scoring, led by 16 points apiece from Brandon Childress and Hoard. Brown scored 13, while Torry Johnson and Isaiah Mucius both scored 10 off the bench.
“I feel like we fought with a sense of urgency when we got down a lot. … I mean, overall it was a frustrating game because I feel like we could’ve played with that sense of urgency earlier on, and we probably would’ve had a different result,” Hoard said. “I feel like this season — everybody, including myself, if we had played with a little more sense of urgency for 40 minutes, I feel like we would’ve had a way different record than we did this year.”
Miami (14-17), which faces fifth-seeded Virginia Tech on Wednesday, outscored the Deacons 38-22 in the paint. The Deacons did what they’ve done in most ACC games this season in the aspect of changing from man-to-man defense to a matchup zone — neither of which proved effective for long.
“We didn’t play in gaps, we didn’t help each other,” Brown said. “I feel like that killed us. We do that all the time in practice and then it’ll lead up to the game. That really hurt us.”
The first half featured a slow start, with Miami up 6-0 after 2½ minutes. There were plenty of turnovers — nine of them, to be exact — some of which came on miscommunications that resulted in passes sailing out of bounds without a Deacon in the vicinity. And there were glimpses of success, like scoring on seven of 10 possessions.
The end to the first half was Childress drilling a 3-pointer in front of Miami’s bench to tie the score, and then Dejan Vasiljevic answering with one second left for the Hurricanes’ 34-31 halftime lead.
Vasiljevic led Miami with 21 points, while Anthony Lawrence scored 20. Lykes wound up with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Wake Forest cut Miami’s lead to four twice in the last five minutes, but was never within one possession.