WINSTON-SALEM — N.C. State didnt know who Devin Thomas was before Tuesdays game. The Wolfpack does now.
With 25 points and 14 rebounds, Thomas led Wake Forest to an improbable 86-84 win against No. 18 N.C. State on Tuesday at Joel Coliseum. It was the second straight road loss for the Wolfpack and the second straight time an opposing fan base rushed the court.
Thomas, a freshman forward, made sure Wake Forest (10-8, 3-3) fans could celebrate their first win against an in-state ACC opponent under third-year coach Jeff Bzdelik.
Thomas hadnt scored more than 12 points in his first 17 college games but got loose against N.C. States bullfighter defense, which was handcuffed by foul trouble and indecision.
Freshman guard Rodney Purvis led N.C. State (15-4, 4-2) with 18 points but also summed up the Wolfpacks problems with Thomas, who entered the game fourth on the team in scoring and averaging 6.5 points.
I didnt even really know who he was, Purvis said. Hes a freshman right? Hes definitely really good. He has a great future.
Thomas had nine offensive rebounds, four assists, four blocks and four steals. He had a steal and assist which set up Travis McKies layup at 5 minutes, 15 seconds, which gave Wake Forest an 80-72 lead.
You look at his line, good gracious, what can you say? Bzdelik said.
McKie (16 points) and freshman guard Codi Miller-McIntyre (15 points) scored from the outside when Thomas wasnt scoring on the block.
My teammates kept feeding me the ball so I was playing with a lot of confidence, so I think that helped us out a lot, Thomas said.
As did N.C. States porous defense, which allowed 51 points in the second half. The Wolfpack let what once was a 16-point lead turn into its first loss to Wake Forest in six games.
Not that N.C. State didnt make it interesting in the final moments after falling behind by 10. C.J. Leslie, who was limited to 18 minutes because of foul trouble, had a potential tying layup blocked by Aaron Rountree with 12 seconds left.
Still down 84-82, the rebound fell to Purvis about 8 feet from the basket.
It was definitely a good look, Purvis said. I was wide open and it rimmed out.
Leslie had one more tip at Purvis rebound but couldnt convert. A steal by T.J. Warren (14 points) at halfcourt and subsequent 3-pointer at the buzzer would have won the game for N.C. State, but it never got to the rim.
Leslie, who finished 13 points, also went 1 for 4 from the free-throw line in the final 61 seconds with two chances to tie the game. After his third miss, with 29 seconds to play, an offensive rebound by Richard Howell gave N.C. State a chance, down 83-82, to take the lead, but Scott Woods 3-pointer from the top of the key was short.
Not that all the late, missed chances or foul trouble were to blame for the loss, coach Mark Gottfried said.
I dont think we defended nearly as well as we could in the second half, he said. Thats on us, we have to be a lot better than that.
N.C. State had won the previous two in Winston-Salem by a combined 61 points. The Wolfpack looked like it was on its way to another rout when it led 47-31 in the first half.
Instead of another stone cast against Bzdelik, it turned out to be the highlight of his beleaguered tenure.
We live in the moment, Bzdelik said. And this is a great moment.
-- Regulars C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, T.J. Warren and Scott Wood each had two fouls in the first half for N.C. State.
Jordan Vandenberg, who played 12 minutes in the half, had three fouls by intermission. To say N.C. State was unhappy with the officiating would be an understatement.
On one call against Vandenberg with 4 minutes, 11 seconds left in the half, referee Ted Valentine made the call from the opposite side of the floor, instead of head official Les Jones, who was 3 feet from the play.
Come on, Les, you cant let that guy do that, Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said to Jones after the call.
-- N.C. State ended up with 23 fouls, compared to 21 for Wake Forest. N.C. State took 25 free throws, and made 14. Wake Forest was 20 of 33 from the free-throw line.
-- Wake Forest scored 51 points in the second half. Thats seven more than it scored in an entire game at Clemson on Jan. 15 (a 60-44 loss).
-- Wake Forest junior Travis McKie briefly stopped in the media room in Joel Coliseum after the game and posed, playfully, with his arms stretched out. He smiled at the Wake Forest beat writers and then exited the room.