NEW YORK – There are bad losses. There are worse losses. And then there’s the loss Wake Forest suffered in the second round of the ACC Tournament on Wednesday.
The fifth-seeded Deacons put their NCAA Tournament chances into severe jeopardy with an 82-77 overtime loss at Barclays Center to a team it had beaten by 30 points a month ago.
As if the result itself wasn’t frustrating enough for Wake, which must now nervously wait until Selection Sunday to learn its postseason fate, the way it came about was even tougher to stomach.
The Deacons led by 10 with less than six minutes to go in regulation before, in the words of coach Steve Forbes, “self-destructing” down the stretch.
“We couldn’t get stops, couldn’t get any 50-50 balls,” Forbes said afterward. “They were more urgent.”
That’s a telling statement from a coach whose team would have all but assured itself its first NCAA bid since 2017 by simply disposing of the 13th-seeded Eagles.
But it’s an assessment that was echoed by forward Jake LaRavia.
After spending the first 34 minutes battling both BC and itself to take a 65-55 lead with 6:05 remaining, the Deacons (23-9) took their foot off the accelerator.
“I think we just got too comfortable,” said LaRavia, who led Wake with 21 points on 9 of 13 shooting, but who committed six of his team’s 17 turnovers. “We saw we were up 10 and we started laying lackadaisical, kind of started not playing defense. We just weren’t there, I think, all game and the result was like that.”
LaRavia was one of the few Wake players that appeared to be on his game Wednesday.
Alondes Williams, the newly named ACC Player of the Year, scored 17 points, but he was 0 for 3 from 3-point range and committed five turnovers while battling leg cramps for the latter part of regulation and overtime.
Point guard Davien Williamson, a 41% 3-point shooter and 47.8% shooter overall, went 1 of 8 from the floor while missing all four of his long range attempts while wing Isaiah Mucius went 1 of 6, all on 3-pointers.
The Deacons made only 6 of 22 from beyond the arc, turned the ball over 17 times and allowed BC (13-19) to shoot an even 50% from the game.
And yet, despite all that, they still found a way to put themselves in position to survive and advance to a quarterfinal matchup against fourth-seeded Miami on Thursday. With reserves Damari Monsanto and Cameron Hildreth coming off the bench to inject a badly needed jolt of energy, Wake produced a 15-2 run that finally seemed to restore order.
And then the bottom dropped out.
A pair of free throws and a dunk by BC big man James Karnik trimmed the lead to six. A missed free throw by Williams on one end and two made free throws on the other by DeMarr Langford, his team’s leading scorer with 19 points, got the Eagles another point closer.
Then came one of the decisive plays in the game – a charging foul on LaRavia that could easily have been called a block.
The foul was LaRavia’s fourth, sending him to the bench. Eight unanswered points later – including a long 3-pointer late in the shot clock by Brevin Galloway – BC had a 14-1 run and a 69-66 lead.
“When you’re up 10 you’ve got to get a couple more stops and it’s probably over,” Forbes said. “You get 12 to 15 at the last media timeout, you win that (segment) and then it’s going to be hard for them to come back. We just gave up drives to the baskets, and-ones, and Galloway made a big three.”
Wake, by contrast, couldn’t get its most important shots to go down. That is, when it was able to get a shot off at all.
It didn’t happen on the most important possession of the game.
With 31 seconds remaining and the score tied, LaRavia stole the ball from BC’s Makai Ashton-Langford and passed ahead to Williams near midcourt. After dribbling the clock down, the Wake star made his move to the basket, where he was met by Ashton-Langford.
The call could have gone either way. Again, it went against the Deacons.
“I know he’s a really good player,” Ashton-Langford said of Williams. “He gets to the spots he wants and he kind of puts his head down. I knew I was going to take the charge as soon as he did that. That was just instinct by me, I guess.”
If Ashton-Langford listened to his instincts, Forbes did the opposite.
“I probably should have called timeout,” the Wake coach said. “I’ll take the blame on that, maybe get a better look. It was a pick-and-roll with (LaRavia) and Alondes, our best two players, and he refused it, went downhill and charged.”
That turned out to be the closest the Deacons would come to getting the win they so badly needed. With five of their players saddled with four fouls each, they made just two of 10 field goal attempts with two critical turnovers in the extra period.
BC took advantage and pulled away, leaving Wake to wait and wonder about which side of the NCAA bubble it will land.
“I think we’re one of the best 68 teams in the country for sure, but I’m not in the room,” Forbes said, adding that his team could have controlled its own destiny by winning. “The narrative for our league hasn’t been very good, so I’m not holding my breath. Do I think we should be? Yes, I do. But I don’t get a vote. We’ll just have to ride it out and see.”