WINSTON-SALEM — N.C. State didn't know who Devin Thomas was before Tuesday's game. The Wolfpack does now.
With 25 points and 14 rebounds, Thomas led Wake Forest to an improbable 86-84 win over No. 18 N.C. State on Tuesday at Joel Coliseum. It was the second straight road loss for the Wolfpack and the second straight time an opposing fan base rushed the court.
Thomas, a freshman forward, made sure the Wake (10-8, 3-3 ACC) fans could celebrate their first win over in-state ACC opponent under third-year coach Jeff Bzdelik.
Thomas hadn't scored more than 12 points in his first 17 college games but was able to get loose against N.C. State's bullfighter defense, which was handcuffed by foul trouble and indecision.
Freshman guard Rodney Purvis led N.C. State (15-4, 4-2) with 18 points but also summed up the Pack's problems with Thomas, who entered the game fourth on the team in scoring and averaging 6.5 points per game.
"I didn't even really know who he was," Purvis said. "He's a freshman right? He's definitely really good. He has a great future."
Thomas added nine offensive, four assists, four blocks and four steals. He had steal and assist which set up Travis McKie's layup at 5:15, which gave Wake an 80-72 lead.
"You look at his line, good gracious, what can you say?" Bzdelik said.
McKie (16 points) and freshman guard Codi Miller-McIntyre (15 points) scored from the outside when Thomas wasn't scoring on the block.
"My teammates kept feeding me the ball so I was playing with a lot of confidence so I think that helped us out a lot," Thomas said.
As did N.C. State's porous defense, which allowed 51 points in the second half. The Pack let what once was a 16-point lead turn into its first loss to Wake in six games.
Not that N.C. State didn't make it interesting in the final moments interesting after falling behind by 10.
C.J. Leslie, who was limited to 18 minutes because of foul trouble, had a potential game-tying layup blocked by Aaron Rountree with 12 seconds left.
Still down 84-82, the rebound fell to Purvis about eight feet from the basket.
"It was definitely a good look," Purvis said. "I was wide open and it rimmed out."
Leslie had one more tip at Purvis' rebound but couldn't convert. A last-second steal by T.J. Warren (14 points) at half court and subsequent 3-pointer at the buzzer would have won the game for State - but it never got to the rim.
Leslie, who finished 13 points, also went 1 for 4 from the free-throw line in the final 61 seconds with two chances to tie the game. After Leslie's third miss, with 29 seconds to play, an offensive rebound by Richard Howell gave State a chance, down 83-82, to take the lead but Scott Wood's 3-pointer from the top of the key was short.
Not that all of the late, missed chances or foul trouble were to blame for the loss, N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said.
"I don't think we defended nearly as well as could in the second half," Gottfried said. "That's on us, we have to be a lot better than that."
N.C. State had won the previous two in Winston-Salem by a combined 61 points. The Pack looked like it was on its way to another rout when it led 47-31 with 61 seconds left in the first half.
Instead of another stone cast against Bzdelik, it turned out to be the highlight of his beleaguered tenure.
"We live in the moment," Bzdelik said. "And this is a great moment.