In a close and hotly contested matchup in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons defeated the Rutgers Scarlet Knights by a score of 69-68 on a last-minute layup by Cornelius Hudson. The Demon Deacons won for the ACC in the opening night of the challenge.
The main reason Wake Forest won the game was due to the performance of Devin Thomas, who was tremendous all game. He led the team in both points and rebounds, with 23 points and 17 boards. The Deacons did not dominate the rebounding game as much as they normally do and also turned the ball over 18 times, but were still able to overcome these struggles to pull out the win.
The Deacons outperformed the Scarlet Knights at the free throw line, and that proved to be a big factor in the outcome. Rutgers missed seven of its 18 shots at the line; Wake Forest only missed seven of their 25 shots from the charity stripe.
John Collins also played very well for Wake off the bench. He went 5-7 from the field for 11 points and three rebounds in just 16 minutes played. Cornelius Hudson was also an important player for the Deacons off the bench, notching 8 points. Rutgers had a good bench performance themselves from Jonathan Laurent, who contributed 10 points and seven rebounds.
This game was critical for the Demon Deacons to win. They were solid in the Maui Invitational with wins over Indiana and UCLA, and a loss to Rutgers would have been a huge letdown following such a performance. Wake can be a tournament team this year, but bad losses will damage their chances and with Codi Miller-McIntyre still out, the Demon Deacons are very vulnerable.
Rutgers failed to make shots when they needed to. At one point in the second half, the Scarlet Knights were up 12, but then allowed Wake Forest to hit two threes and get right back in the game. Wake took advantage of Rutgers’ inability to close out the game and showed resolve in the process.
The Knights fall to 3-4 on the season and still seem to be in the down years of their program's history. A win in the ACC-Big Ten challenge could have bolstered the program, but Rutgers fell just short. It was their third straight loss. They will play in-state rival Seton Hall on Saturday.
Wake Forest improves to 5-2 on the year with only losses to Richmond and Vanderbilt as blemishes to the record. Wake will travel back home to Winston-Salem and will host Arkansas on Friday night in another important, potential resume-building game. Wake will have the opportunity to build upon an already solid season with another victory.