Wake Forest Holds Off Virginia Tech In ACC Tournament Opener
March 4, 2005
GREENSBORO - Wake Forest coach Mike Petersen had seen this before - five times in the last month to be exact. His Demon Deacons would play a solid, tough defensive game against some top ACC competition, only to fall short in the end.
Things would be different for the first-year coach and 10th-seeded Wake Forest on Friday night as the Demon Deacons made all the key plays down the stretch to hold off No. 7 seed Virginia Tech 61-56 in the first round of the ACC Tournament.
"I'm just so happy for my players," Petersen said. "We've played that exact game against really good teams in this league and the first five didn't turn out the way we wanted them to. I told someone the other day I felt like I was Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day - we go to the gym, we play the same game and it ends the same way every day.
"It was nice to have one end with us being able to go in there and celebrate," he added. "At halftime, we talked about the team competing the hardest was the team that was going to win the game."
Wake Forest overcame an eight-minute scoreless drought in the first half and got 10 straight points from Liz Strunk in the second period to advance to the quarterfinals against five-time defending champion Duke.
When the horn sounded, Petersen raced down the sideline, jumping in the air and pumping his fist repeatedly as his team celebrated on the court.
"That was a possible indoor record for me," Petersen said of his fist pumps. "I think I've fist-pumped more than that when I drain eagle putts - and there hasn't been many of those.
"This was important. When you're building a program and trying to move forward there are defining moments for your program when you break through and win a game that makes a difference. It makes a difference in your confidence, it makes a difference in how people perceive you."
At 15-13, Wake Forest is in line for its first winning season since 1991.
"One of the best things about this team is they didn't worry about who they're not and they didn't worry about what had gone on before," Petersen said. "From 1991 until 2000; none of that is their fault. They weren't here for the 1994 season."
"We couldn't look back on last year," added Strunk. "We had a completely new coaching staff. There was a completely new vibe that was on the team. It has been refreshing and we feel like we're starting to turn the corner."
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech (17-11) had its worst shooting game of the season, hitting on only 29.9 percent. The Hokies must now wait to see if an NCAA at-large bid will come their way.
"We started off a little jittery," Virginia Tech coach Beth Dunkenberger. "That was due to nerves. It's a big tournament and we were in a situation where we felt like we needed to win this game."
Wake Forest stuck together despite going 2-for-16 to start the game.
"There were two media timeouts in there so we talked about it twice," Petersen joked about his team's eight-minute scoring drought. "I told them they were guarding their brains out and to stay with it and eventually we'll score. I just thought we were over-amped."
Strunk had just nine points in a 10-point loss to the Hokies earlier in the season, but finished with 20 this time along with eight rebounds. Cotelia Bond-Young added 15 points, while Erin Ferrell had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Dawn Chriss led Virginia Tech with 18 points, however the other four starters were a combined 8-for-30 and the Hokies failed to make a 3-pointer.
By DAVID DROSCHAK