NEW ORLEANS -- From No. 1 to one and done: Ishmael Smith's last shot meant one final collapse for Texas.
Smith's pull-up jumper from about 17 feet out with 1.3 seconds remaining in overtime gave ninth-seeded Wake Forest an 81-80 win over the eighth-seeded Longhorns in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday night.Texas twice rallied from double-digit deficits, then blew an eight-point lead in overtime, completing a puzzling slide after being ranked No. 1 in the country in January.
"I knew I wasn't going to get all the way to the lane," Smith said. "I knew I had to pull up, and thank God I made a big shot."It wasn't the first crucial shot for Smith, who as a sophomore made late pull-up jumpers in the final seconds of wins over Virginia Tech and Miami. Now a senior, he made a running jumper with 19.8 seconds left in overtime to lift Wake Forest to a two-point win over Maryland a couple of months ago.And now this."This has to be No. 1, obviously, because I think in the regular season you live to play another game," Smith said. "Now you're in a position -- you lose, you go home."Instead, the Demon Deacons advanced to play top-seeded Kentucky in the second round of the East Regional on Saturday.It was the third game that went to overtime on a wild first day of NCAA action. Last year, two games went to OT in the entire tournament.The Demon Deacons (20-10) rallied from a 76-68 deficit in the extra session. They still trailed by four in the final minute, but a 3-pointer by Ari Stewart with 15.9 seconds left made it 80-79.Gary Johnson then missed two free throws for Texas, giving Smith one more chance."They're disappointed," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "I told them, 'You've got to remember this feeling.' The seniors, they've been here and they've done some good things, but it can end real quickly."Smith finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and eight turnovers.Wake Forest went on a 17-4 run at the start of the second half to take a 54-42 lead. The Longhorns (24-10), who had wiped out an 11-point deficit in the first half, tied it at 67 on J'Covan Brown's 3-pointer with 49.3 seconds remaining in regulation.Wake Forest's C.J. Harris made a free throw with 30.5 seconds left, and the Demon Deacons then stopped Texas but turned the ball over trying to inbound it. Damion James tied it for the Longhorns with a free throw with 9.9 seconds left.Al-Farouq Aminu finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds for Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons weren't playing any better than Texas coming into this game, having lost five of six, but they survived for another round after a game neither team was good enough to put away.Neither coach was thrilled with the way his team handled the final seconds. After Stewart's 3-pointer made it a one-point game, Texas got the ball to Brown, who shoots about 90 percent from the free throw line. Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio wanted his team to foul immediately, but the Demon Deacons didn't."Why we didn't foul initially J'Covan, I'm not sure," he said. "We were supposed to foul him initially."Brown, however, passed off to avoid being trapped, and Wake Forest was able to foul Johnson, who then missed twice from the free throw line."I was watching the 10-second clock because [Brown] should have kept the ball. We wanted him to keep the ball," Barnes said. "I told him that. What he should have done is dribbled it, and see if they would have -- because they would have fouled him, because they were yelling for the foul."And even in that situation, that's where he's got to throw it and run, get it back. He had time to do that. But that's being young."Brown, a freshman, scored all 20 of his points after halftime. Jordan Hamilton, another Texas freshman, scored 16 of his 19 in the first half.Texas started 17-0 this season but slumped so badly down the stretch the Longhorns were hoping for a fresh start in the NCAA tournament."We started off good, playing as a team and moving the ball," Brown said. "We just got away from it."The Longhorns began Thursday's game shooting 3 of 17 from the field and fell behind by double digits. Harris made a sprawling, reverse layup to put Wake Forest ahead 12-5, and Stewart added a pair of 3-pointers to make it 18-7.That was when Hamilton went to work. He made four 3-pointers, a tip-in and a pair of free throws to help his team go into halftime ahead 38-37.Wake Forest's Tony Woods did give his team some momentum with a putback dunk to end the half.