Wake beats Virginia to open ACC Women’s Tourney

The Demon Deacons will face Florida State on Wednesday

Wake Forest's Kaia Harrison clutches her ankle after suffering an injury just before halftime in the ACC Women's Tournament opening game Wednesday in Greensboro. (Shawn Krest / North State Journal)

GREENSBORO — Wake Forest put together enough runs to hold off Virginia 68-57 in the opening game of the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament on Wednesday.

After Virginia scored the game’s first four points, Wake went on a 16-0 run to take control of the game. Virginia used two timeouts to try to stop the bleeding, but the Cavaliers went seven minutes, 31 seconds without making a basket, missing nine straight shots from the field.


“I think we talked about it in the locker room coming out that we needed to execute in order to win the game at both ends of the floor, and we had been moving towards that in the month of February,” said Wake coach Megan Gebbia. “And it didn’t really turn out to see some W’s, but I think we were really focused today, were able to execute at both ends.”

Virginia was able to steadily cut into Wake’s lead, trimming the margin to a mere three points at halftime after closing the first half by scoring the last six points to cap a 12-4 run. UVA then opened the second half with a basket to cut the lead to one point.

That’s when Wake unleashed its next epic run, outscoring UVA 21-1 over the next 5:55. Virginia missed six straight shots and turned it over four times, while Wake hit nine of 10 shots from the floor to build a 20-point lead.

“We came out of the locker room in the third quarter (and) were able to score different ways, which was nice,” Gebbia said, “and then just really kind of held on to the lead in the fourth quarter.”

In the final quarter, UVA again carved into the Wake lead, cutting it as close as five points. Virginia missed three straight shots with a chance to make it a one-possession game before Wake closed the game with seven straight points.

Jewel Spear led the way for Wake with 19 points, while Elise Williams added 16. The pair scored 10 points during the first-quarter run, seven during the third-quarter outburst and four during the 6-0 run to close the game. Post player Demeara Hinds scored six of her eight points for the game during the third-quarter run. She also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.

“She was huge,” said Gebbia. “She came up with some big offensive boards, too. We started to slip balls screen in the second half when they were hard hedging, and they left her open. She’s a scary person to leave open in a restricted area. So happy she came through and was able to contribute. All five starters contributed perfectly, and that’s kind of what you wanted.”

The game was costly for Wake as guard Kaia Harrison went down with an ankle injury just before halftime and didn’t return to the game. Her condition for Thursday was unknown.

“Kaia goes down and you could fold, and they didn’t fold, and they continued to play hard. I think that’s growth for our team this year,” said Gebbia.

Spear and Williams combined for five assists and ran the offense the rest of the way.

“I kind of had to take on a little bit of a challenge,” Williams said. “I know it was pretty much just me and Jewel were the primary ball handlers. I knew they were going to start pressing and being scrappy because they were down fourth quarter. But kind of just relying on people, not trying to do everything myself, just finding the open cutter. Just different things like that. We deal with presses all year, so it wasn’t really that much different from anything else. But yeah, just trying to stay calm, not crack under pressure.”

Wake moves on to face No. 5 seed Florida State to open Wednesday’s tournament schedule. The game is significant for Wake, who moved to 16-15 on the year with Wednesday’s win. Another win would guarantee the Deacs with a winning record, making them eligible for the NIT.

“We’re fighting for the NIT right now,” Gebbia said. “Actually we’re fighting, who knows, further than that, right? We’re taking it game by game. That’s what that game means. If you can win that, that means NIT. But after that, you never know.”