Pittsburgh 84, Wake Forest 55

Pittsburgh rolls over Wake Forest 84-55 at ACC tournament

jjones@charlotteobserver.comMarch 13, 2014 

— With Wake Forest hopelessly trailing Pittsburgh with the clock ticking down in the second round of the ACC tournament, three Wake Forest fans seated in section 131 of the Greensboro Coliseum began a brief chant.

“Five more minutes,” they exclaimed, followed by five claps. “Five more minutes,” they continued.

Indeed there were five more minutes remaining in what would be Pittsburgh’s 84-55 victory against the Deacons, but the chant likely carried another meaning.

For Jeff Bzdelik, those five minutes may have been his final minutes as coach of the Deacons. In four years, Bzdelik has gone 51-78 at the helm.

On Thursday, the Panthers had a double-digit lead and five offensive rebounds just 5 1/2 minutes into the game.

“They hit us right between the eyes, and we were on our heels throughout the entire game,” said Bzdelik, who would answer only questions about the game and not his future at Wake Forest.

“We just lose some confidence, and we’ve been fragile with that throughout the course of the year at times. You got the score you got.”

Sophomore forward Devin Thomas offered a half-laugh when he said the team didn’t play with any toughness Thursday. Pittsburgh outrebounded the Deacons by eight, turned the Deacons over 14 times and held Wake Forest to 34 percent shooting.

Thomas was still optimistic about the future despite the uncertainty surrounding his coach’s job security following Wake Forest’s worst ACC tournament loss since 1966.

“I’m forever grateful for what coach has done. It’s kind of unfair to ask that question and put that pressure on coach because the situation he was brought here with, before we were even here,” said Thomas, referring to Bzdelik being tasked with cleaning up the program and restoring the university’s integrity.

“He was brought into that situation where he had to create a whole new foundation. I think, personally, not from a biased perspective or because he’s my man, I think we’ve shown improvement. From 13 wins to 17 wins – we’ll probably have 25 wins next year.”

Whether Thursday was Bzdelik’s final game is still to be determined. He said it’s up to the administration whether the Deacons accept a postseason bid – one that is likely to come from the CBI.

“We certainly don’t want to go out like this,” Bzdelik said.

The Deacons trailed by single digits for the final time with 2 1/2 minutes left in the first half. They trailed by less than 20 points for the final time with nine minutes left.

It could have reached 30 points if not for two late-game free throws by senior Travis McKie. The lone player on the team who’s been there for all four Bzdelik seasons recorded his first and second points of the game with less than two minutes remaining.

He finished the game, possibly the final one of his collegiate career, with two points on 0-for-6 shooting.

“To end like this, it hurts, but you can’t really dwell on this too much,” McKie said.

“It hasn’t been ideal coming into it a situation I didn’t see coming. I just took it head on. I took full responsibility for everything I’ve done and I grew up a lot. I grew up as a person. These four years meant a lot. These guys will right the ship and they’ll get better.”


Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9

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