WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Wake Forest fans have been anxious for the team to mature and the Demon Deacons seemed to come of age in the best possible way.
Wake Forest defended effectively and benefited from a good stretch early in the second half to upset North Carolina 73-67 in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener Sunday night at Lawrence Joel Coliseum, where students returning early from the holiday break stormed the court to embrace the players.
"They all stood out," coach Jeff Bzdelik said of his team. "I love the balance that we had."
Forward Travis McKie scored 16 points as the Demon Deacons ended a four-game losing streak in the series. Guard Codi Miller-McIntyre added 12 points, and forwards Tyler Cavanaugh and Arnaud William Adala Moto added 11 points apiece for the Demon Deacons (11-3).
Bzdelik, in his fourth season with the Demon Deacons, often has been criticized by the fan base after winning only 11 of 53 ACC games entering this season.
This is the kind of breakthrough victory that the Demon Deacons have coveted. The players were already talking about a celebration that would take place on the campus quad.
"If we can continue to do the things we did tonight, we'll be all right," McKie said. "We know we've got to execute like that."
North Carolina made only 38.7 percent of its shots from the field, 29-for-75, negating a 53-34 rebounding edge.
McKie said the Demon Deacons must make the most of this victory in the coming weeks in order to prove it wasn't just a random successful game in conference play.
Wake Forest led 56-44 with eight minutes to play. The Tar Heels then scored six consecutive points, and they appeared to regain possession off a turnover. However, North Carolina guard Leslie McDonald was called for a contact technical foul, and momentum shifted again.
North Carolina guard Marcus Paige struggled throughout the game. He missed his first seven 3-point attempts, and his streak of consecutive made free throws ended at 31. He fouled out with a season-low eight points after making three of 12 shots from the field.
"Our focus coming into the game was to limit our turnovers and we did that," Bzdelik said. "We handled their traps. We did a real good job attacking their pressure. I thought our guards attacked."
"We've got to be more aggressive and attack the basket," Williams said.
The Tar Heels won 12 of their previous 16 ACC road outings.
Even though the score was tied at 25, the Tar Heels experienced trouble when McAdoo picked up his third foul with 5:56 left in the half. Less than two minutes later, Tokoto had his third foul.
NOTES: North Carolina C Joel James went through warm-ups but didn't play for the fourth game in a row due to a knee injury. ... North Carolina fell to 50-11 in ACC openers. Wake Forest improved to 28-33 mark in ACC debuts. ... North Carolina's most-recent previous road game resulted in a Dec. 4 conquest of then-No. 1 Michigan State. ... Wake Forest opened ACC play at home for the fifth time in seven seasons. ... The teams will meet again Feb. 22 at Chapel Hill, marking only the third season in a decade that they will tangle multiple times. ... North Carolina will play its eighth consecutive game within the state's boundaries with Wednesday night's home game against Miami. ... Wake Forest starts a stretch of four road games in a five-game span Wednesday at Virginia.