BLACKSBURG, Va. — When questions about Wake Forest Coach Jeff Bzdelik’s job security come up, critics often point to his 1-27 ACC road record since taking over the program almost four years ago.
A trip to Cassell Coliseum Wednesday night sent the embattled coach home cracking jokes.
The Demon Deacons stormed out to an early lead and held on late in an 83-77 win that dropped Virginia Tech into a tie for last place in the ACC with Boston College. The Hokies (8-10, 1-5) have lost five straight games and seven of their past eight, with five of the defeats coming at home.
The final score was deceiving after Virginia Tech fell behind by 21 points during a horrendous first-half defensive performance. Wake Forest (13-5, 3-3) shot 53.6 percent from the floor, the highest percentage an opponent has shot against the Hokies this year.
Freshman point guard Devin Wilson set a career high for the second consecutive game with a game-high 26 points and senior Jarell Eddie (20 points) had his most productive showing since the conference opener at Miami on Dec. 8, although he hit just five of his 16 shot attempts.
It wasn’t nearly enough on a night when Wake Forest senior Travis McKie scored a season-high 24 points and guard Codi Miller-McIntyre became the first Demon Deacons player since Chris Paul in 2004 to finish with 20 points and 10 assists.
“We dug ourselves too deep of a hole to come out of,” Hokies Coach James Johnson said. “We’re not built to come back from a 20-point deficit. We’re just not built to do that right now. We’re not deep. We’re not shooting the ball well.”
Virginia Tech tried to make things interesting late, and a 10-3 run cut Wake Forest’s lead to 71-63 following an Eddie three-pointer with less than three minutes remaining. But Wake Forest responded with five straight points to end any suspense.
The Hokies finished with 22 offensive rebounds, but big men C.J. Barksdale, Cadarian Raines and Joey van Zegeren were a combined 9 of 32 from the field. Freshman Trevor Thompson (10 points, 12 rebounds) was the lone bright spot down low.
“We’ve got to dig down and find a way to win,” Wilson said. “I think we’ve got to find our identity.”
Virginia Tech began the evening with sobering injury news, and Johnson admitted it contributed to the slow start. A team spokesman said guard Adam Smith would be out at least two weeks with a strained calf and a minor stress fracture in his fibula. Freshman captain Ben Emelogu (ankle) was also relegated to the sideline for a second straight game and is listed as day-to-day going forward.
The Hokies missed their first 11 shots and finished the first half shooting just 22.6 percent from the field. Wake Forest, meanwhile, hit seven of its first nine three-pointers and McKie emerged from a funk in the process. He scored all 15 of his first-half points in the opening 12 minutes of action after registering seven points or less in six of the past seven games.
It wasn’t long before his team put the finishing touches on its first ACC road win since a victory at Boston College on Jan. 21, 2012.
“It makes the bus ride home a little nicer,” Bzdelik said. “In fact, I was thinking about telling the bus driver to go to Wilmington and then Charlotte and just drive around so we can enjoy it before we go home.”