Wake Forest came back from the dead tonight but it wasn't quite enough.
The Deacons, humiliated by North Carolina in the opening round of the Big Four basketball tournament Friday night, made sixth-ranked North Carolia State struggle until the last minute, but finally succumbed in the consolation game, 77-70.
"This is just what I expected," State Coach Norman Sloan said. "Their freshmen were all jittery the first 10 minutes last night but tonight they just went out and used their natural talent and made us really dig down to win."
Wake Coach Carl Tacy started three freshmen. Two of them, Alvis Rogers (20 points) and Mike Helms (16) led the scoring. It took solid, workmanlike performances from Hawkeye Whitney (20 points), Clyde Austin (19) and Kendall (Tiny) Pinder (14) to enable the Wolfpack to hang on after leading, 71-68, with 1:04 left.
Sloan, whose team is now 41, spent most of the postgame news conference blasting the Big Four concept, something he has not done before although others have.
"It's utterly ridiculous for one team to have to come in here this early in the year and lose two games like this," Sloan said. "The pressure in that consolation game is just too much this early. You're out there playing not to lose. I was in agony the whole game."
His team avoided losing mainly because the Deacons could not quite shake their jiters down the stretch, although it was veteran Frank Johnson who hurt Wake most. He made four of 16 shots, missing his last five when the Deacs had a chance to catch State.
"I thought our kids showed a lot of poise tonight, coming back from what happened last night," Tacy said. "We got better tonight and we're going to continue to get better. State has a fine team and we stayed right with them."
Tacy was not as ngative on the Big Four concept as Sloan, but did say, "We're certainly not happy to come in here 1-0 and go out 1-2."
The game was close throughout with neither team leading by more than five at any tim until the last minute. The Deacons led, 41-40, at half, at half, largely on the play of Helms. He was four of six from Rogers dominated the inside.
But both cooled in the second half and State took the lead for good with 18:24 left. Wake closed to within one on numerous ocasions, the last at 7-66 with 7:50 left.
Sloan ordered his team to hold the ball and, when Wake was forced to foul, the Wolfpack made its free throws (nine of 13 for the hlf) keping Wake at bay.