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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Time and time again, Wake Forest had played step for step with ranked opponents only to fail to close out a winnable game.
The Demon Deacons waited until their final home game to fix that problem — and earn a win that gives a significant boost to their NCAA Tournament chances.
John Collins had 25 points and 11 rebounds, helping Wake Forest rally from 14 down to upset No. 8 Louisville 88-81 on Wednesday night.
"We've been doing this type of stuff all year, going up on teams, playing close with teams," Collins said. "Today we got up and closed it out against a very good team.
"It shows progress for us. It shows we're moving in the right direction at a very good time."
Keyshawn Woods added 20 points for the Demon Deacons (17-12, 8-9 Atlantic Coast Conference), who came into the game desperately needing a big win to bolster its chances of making it back to the NCAAs for the first time since 2010.
They got it, with Dinos Mitoglou and Mitchell Wilbekin hitting back-to-back huge 3-pointers in the final 3 minutes to turn a 75-72 lead into a nine-point margin. And it ended with Wake Forest fans sprinting to midcourt to celebrate the program's first win against a ranked opponent in eight tries.
Four of those losses had come by six or fewer points, including one here against Duke after Wake Forest blew an 11-point second-half lead.
In a perfect bit of symmetry, the Demon Deacons were right there again Wednesday night. After erasing their first-half deficit, Wake Forest led Louisville (23-7, 11-6) by 11 in the second half but held on this time.
"We've been growing all year," coach Danny Manning said. "We've been in this situation before. We just haven't been able to finish the way we finished tonight."
Deng Adel scored 22 points for the Cardinals, who got off to a fast start but shot just 39 percent after halftime. They also struggled to slow the Demon Deacons once their offense got rolling, with Wake Forest shooting 46 percent and making 10 of 24 3-pointers.
"Give them all the credit: they outplayed us," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "They played a terrific game, probably put themselves in the NCAA by beating us, which is great to see."
Louisville: The Cardinals made 12 of their first 20 shots, but 17 of 41 (41 percent) the rest of the game and couldn't keep pace with Wake Forest's confident attack. Pitino also wasn't happy with the team's defense.
"A lot of times you can pinpoint certain things and say this is why you lost," Pitino said. "We lost tonight because they were the better basketball team."
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons entered this game at 1-9 against RPI top-50 teams. Now they have their best ACC regular-season win total since winning nine in 2010.
Collins, a sophomore who has made himself a candidate for ACC player of the year, finished 7 of 12 from the field and 11 of 12 from the foul line to earn his 12th straight 20-point performance.
"Just the way the way he moves his feet in the post, he's very, very active," Pitino said. "Terrific basketball player. The best post player in our league by far, if not the country."
Mitoglou had 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench, including the big 3 with 2:58 left. Wilbekin finished with 11 points, including a 3 over Mitchell with the shot clock winding down that gave Wake Forest an 81-72 lead with 2:10 left.
Wake Forest had five players in double figures, and used a 20-4 run spanning halftime to erase a 41-30 deficit and take its first lead early in the second half.
"Fight or flight," Manning said. "That's kind of the situation that we're in."
Louisville's Donovan Mitchell, the team's leading scorer at 16.1 points, finished with seven points on 2-for-9 shooting while battling foul issues.
Louisville: The Cardinals host No. 19 Notre Dame in Saturday's regular-season finale.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons close the regular season Saturday at Virginia Tech.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap
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