WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — As the final seconds ticked away and Wake Forest’s students lined up to rush the court, C.J. Harris and Travis McKie exchanged a flying chest-bump.
For the Demon Deacons’ elder statesmen, this was one to savor.
Harris scored 23 points and hit five 3-pointers during Wake Forest’s 80-65 victory over No. 2 Miami on Saturday, giving the Hurricanes their first Atlantic Coast Conference loss while delivering the biggest win under third-year coach Jeff Bzdelik.
“There’s been some tough times, so staying with it, fighting through adversity, finally coming on top of a big-time win is amazing,” said Harris, a senior from Winston-Salem who was in high school the last time Wake Forest beat a team ranked this highly.
Codi Miler-McIntyre added 15 points and fellow freshman Devin Thomas added 10 for the Demon Deacons (12-14, 5-9), who shot 54 percent and led by double figures for the final 9 minutes after reeling off 12 straight points to pull away for their second win over a nationally ranked team in little over a month.
An 86-84 upset of then-No. 18 North Carolina State on Jan. 22 was their biggest victory under Bzdelik.
“Who would have ever thought Wake Forest beating Miami at home would have been a court-rushing scene?” Hurricanes guard Shane Larkin said.
McKie, a junior, finished with 10 rebounds and five blocked shots for the Demon Deacons, who — after two years of being one of the ACC’s worst teams — have transformed themselves back into a tough out at home in the conference.
They improved to 5-2 against ACC foes at Joel Coliseum. The losses — to Duke and Georgia Tech — are by a combined six points.
“It shows hope, and if everybody has faith in us and the energy stays the way it does every game — at home, at least — that just shows a big future for Wake Forest basketball and the entire program, period,” Miller-McIntyre said. “I know it hasn’t been so well in the past few years, but we’re all trying to put that behind us.”
Durand Scott had all 17 of his points in the second half for the Hurricanes (22-4, 13-1), the last of the schools in the six BCS conferences to get its first league loss.
Larkin added 13 points, Trey McKinney Jones had 11 and Kenny Kadji finished with 10 for Miami.
“You could just see it tonight. I had a bad feeling coming into warmups with everybody going slow,” Larkin said. “I was trying to get people to go fast, and I wasn’t even going full speed like I should have. … Overall, we weren’t prepared before the game and they came out and punched us in the mouth.”
Miami never got closer than 11 in the second half and was outrebounded 36-35 by the younger, smaller Demon Deacons as the best start to ACC play since Duke’s 16-0 mark in 1998-99 came to a surprisingly lopsided end.
“You want to go undefeated, you want to win every game, but you’re still in first place,” Larkin said. “That’s in the past and we’re just going to let it stay in the past.”
The Hurricanes — whose previous three wins came by a combined 12 points — looked like they had another tight finish in them when Scott capped an 18-8 run with a jumper with 14½ minutes left to make it 46-41.
He added a layup 2 minutes later to pull Miami to 50-45, and it looked as if the Hurricanes were going to find a way to keep their charmed run rolling.
But two possessions later, Harris turned a turnover into a fast-break dunk that started a 12-0 run that put the Demon Deacons on the fast track to their biggest victory since they knocked off then-No. 1 Duke four years ago when they were in the top five themselves.
They thoroughly outplayed the Hurricanes from start to finish, hitting shots from all over the court against a Miami team that at times appeared fatigued after gutting out those three tight wins but wouldn’t let that excuse fly.
“Wake Forest won this game,” said Miami big man Reggie Johnson, a Winston-Salem native. “We had mental lapses on the defensive and offensive end. … I don’t want to take anything away from Wake Forest.”
Harris hit three 3-pointers during a 2-minute stretch of a 28-8 run that put Wake Forest up 19 on the Hurricanes — who until then hadn’t trailed by more than 13 at any point in an ACC game during their run.
Arnaud William Adala Moto’s fast-break layup with just over a minute before the break put the Demon Deacons up 42-23.
“Every player in the first half for them was very sharp. They were well rested,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “They had a whole week to prepare for us. They defended us well and we were just not as sharp as we need to be.”