NEW ORLEANS -- Two of the most disappointing teams coming into the NCAA Tournament ended up giving us one of the better games of the tournament.
Senior guard Ishmael Smith buried a jumper with 1.3 seconds remaining in overtime to send Wake Forest to an 81-80 win over Texas in an East Regional first-round game that went back and fourth Thursday night.
It looked like the Longhorns were going to survive after going up by eight points in overtime. They scrapped back from a seven-point deficit in the final five minutes of regulation to force the extra period.
But the Demon Deacons (20-10) made one clutch play after another in the final minutes of overtime, including freshman Ari Stewart’s 3-pointer from the corner to make it a one-point game with 15.9 seconds to play.
The Longhorns missed four free throws inside the final 50 seconds. Gary Johnson missed two with 10 seconds to play, setting up Smith’s game-winner.
Wake Forest had lost five of its last six games coming into the tournament. The Deacons take on No. 1 seed Kentucky in Saturday’s second round.
They advanced to that second round despite turning it over 20 times, eight of those by Smith.
It’s safe to say he made up for those eight turnovers with his high-arching game-winner.