Wake beats Clemson 62-57 to snap 7-game slide
Travis McKie's first season at Wake Forest ended with a long losing streak.
No matter what happens now, at least his last one won't.
The Demon Deacons snapped a seven-game slide Tuesday night with a 62-57 win over a Clemson team trying to play its way into the NCAA tournament.
"When you lose seven in a row, a lot of things go wrong — everything you do is wrong," McKie said. "Getting on the other side of the column is great. Now we just have to keep moving forward and keep getting better."
Devin Thomas and Tyler Cavanaugh each scored 12 points in Wake Forest's 62-57 victory.
The Demon Deacons (15-13, 5-10 Atlantic Coast Conference) erased an early 10-point deficit and shot 55 percent against the league's second-stingiest defense.
Frustrating the Tigers by mixing a couple of zone defenses, they held on to avoid just their third winless February since the school started keeping complete records in 1951 and delivered a serious blow to Clemson's NCAA tournament chances.
"I'm sure it hurts it a lot," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. "Just losing hurts, though. We don't want to lose any game, and to lose it the way we did where we were kind of in control at halftime was disappointing. ... We're kind of learning as we go on this journey."
Damarcus Harrison scored 15 points for the Tigers (17-10, 8-7), who pulled within two points on Jaron Blossomgame's three-point play with 29.1 seconds left.
After Cavanaugh made it a four-point game with two free throws with 20.7 seconds left, Rod Hall missed on a contested drive. McKie added a free throw with 8.2 seconds remaining.
K.J. McDaniels — the league's third-leading scorer — had 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting and missed six of seven attempts from 3-point range.
"Our best player had a tough night," Brownell said. "He hasn't had many, but tonight was a night he struggled a little bit, and we just didn't have enough other guys play well enough to carry us in the second half."
They almost did.
Harrison hit back-to-back 3-pointers to pull Clemson to 56-54 with 2 minutes left.
But with his team down by two with 1:39 left, McDaniels missed two free throws. The rebound was tapped out to Codi Miller-McIntyre, and the Wake Forest guard jetted toward the bucket and hit a layup through contact from Hall. His free throw made it 59-54 with 1:34 left.
Hall finished with 10 points for Clemson, which managed just one field goal during the 6½-minute span in which Wake Forest took the lead for good and fell to 2-19 at Joel Coliseum.
Arnaud William Adala Moto scored 11 points. Miller-McIntyre finished with 10, three days after the guard was held scoreless in a 33-point loss at rival North Carolina.
That marked Wake Forest's seventh straight loss, its longest slide since McKie was a freshman in 2010-11 on coach Jeff Bzdelik's first Demon Deacons team that dropped its final 11.
"I believe we lost our confidence," Bzdelik said. "It was shook, which happens to anybody. ... It should be back. Our guys fought through it, and I'm really proud of them."
They outscored Clemson 13-2 down the stretch and went up 55-46 on Thomas' layup with just under 4 minutes left.
They were down 10 before rallying to take a 35-34 lead with 15½ minutes left on Adala Moto's alley-oop lob to McKie, and it stayed tight until the Demon Deacons' big run.
Hardly anybody saw this coming, after Wake Forest spent the entire month of February in a free-fall with four of six losses in the month coming by double figures.
Meanwhile, Clemson had won two straight and certainly had plenty to play for.
And early on, the Tigers appeared on their way to their sixth straight victory in the series after they held Wake Forest without a rebound for a stretch of 8½ minutes and kept the Demon Deacons completely off the offensive glass in the first half.
Yet the Tigers' only double-figure lead came with their best player on the bench: McDaniels sat for most of the final 5 minutes of the half with two fouls. Clemson went up 30-20 on Harrison's short jumper with about 1:45 left before the break.