WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — As the shot clock ticked perilously close to its conclusion, with the score tied and fewer than 10 seconds remaining in the game, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey looked into the eyes of Matt Farrell.
In that instant, Brey knew his senior guard had made up his mind. He was going to take the game's biggest shot.
Indeed, Farrell took — and made — a long 3-pointer with eight seconds remaining, completing his team's late rally from a nine-point deficit to defeat Wake Forest 74-71 on Saturday.
"I think it was more of, 'I'm going to take this shot,'" Farrell said. "After everything we've been through, let's just go out and take it with confidence, and see what happens."
Wake Forest (11-18, 4-13 ACC) attempted to quickly move the ball up the court for a shot before the Irish could set their defense. But the clock did not start when the ball was inbounded, and officials blew the play dead as the Deacons reached the midcourt stripe.
After a video review, officials gave Wake Forest possession at halfcourt with 3.6 seconds remaining. But Brandon Childress' inbound pass was intercepted by Notre Dame's Martinas Geben, who hit a pair of foul shots to secure the victory.
Demon Deacons coach Danny Manning said he "absolutely" would have preferred to have had the situation reset entirely, with officials going back to give Wake Forest the ball out of bounds under its own basket with the time that remained after Farrell's 3-pointer.
But that was only the last in a series of disappointments for the Deacons, who had claimed their largest lead of the game at 69-60 on a Chaundee Brown 3-pointer, prompting Brey to call timeout with 7:53 to play.
His team responded, going on an 11-0 run over a span of 4:23, punctuated by another Farrell 3-pointer to give Notre Dame a 71-69 lead. All told, Wake Forest made only one field goal after Bryant Crawford's layup with 8:51 to play. It failed to make a single shot from the field in the final 6:30.
"I thought our defense, the last six minutes, really kicked in," Brey said. "They're a gifted offensive team, and it was hard for us to guard them. We tried a little bit of everything. But the last six minutes, we really guarded."
For the Irish (17-12, 7-9), senior Geben led all scorers with 22 points. He added 14 rebounds. Farrell finished with 21 points, including four 3-pointers.
Mitchell Wilbekin led Wake Forest with 14 points, while Brandon Childress added 13 points and four assists.
Notre Dame: The Irish just held on to what little hopes they may have for an NCAA tournament at-large bid. Notre Dame could finish at 9-9 in ACC play with wins in its final two regular season games. With at least some metrics, such as Ken Pomeroy's rankings, relatively bullish on the Irish (No. 31 heading into Saturday's games), the impending return of the injured Bonzie Colson could key a late surge toward the tournament bubble.
"Everybody said, 'we'll see you next year,'" Brey said of the reaction after his team lost Colson, the preseason ACC player of the year, due to injury. "Let's not get through this year too soon yet. We maybe can make a run at this thing. Especially after today — our pulse is still there after today."
Wake Forest: The Deacons were denied what would have been their first consecutive ACC victories of the season in dramatic fashion, and their over-reliance on 3-point shooting may have been at least partially to blame. Wake Forest attempted only one 2-point field goal after Bryant Crawford's layup with 8:51 to play.
SENIOR DAY DISAPPOINTMENT
The game's conclusion put a damper on what had been a spirited Senior Day celebration at Wake Forest. Manning's starting lineup included two seldom-used senior walk-ons, Troy Rike and Britton Anderson. Anderson made a pair of free throws and Rike missed a 3-pointer before the two headed to the bench to boisterous cheers after 1:10 of play.
Anderson and Rike were joined in the starting lineup by graduate transfer Terrence Thompson and Wilbekin, a senior guard. Thompson finished with two personal fouls and one rebound in eight minutes of play, while the aforementioned Wilbekin led his team in scoring with 14 points.
"Well, this is definitely not the way we wanted to send our seniors out," Manning said. "It's a disappointing loss. I thought we had some moments where we really could have seized the moment. We didn't make enough plays down the stretch and Notre Dame did."
Notre Dame returns to South Bend to host Pittsburgh on Wednesday night. It will be the regular season finale for the Panthers, who have yet to win an ACC game. The Irish conclude their regular season schedule next Saturday at No. 1 Virginia.
Wake Forest concludes its regular season when it travels to Georgia Tech next Saturday. The Deacons will be looking for a season sweep of the Yellow Jackets, as Wake Forest won 79-62 when the teams played in Winston-Salem on Feb. 14.