WINSTON-SALEM — For Brandon Childress, the past couple of years at Wake Forest have been marked by a parade of mid-majors that have come in and beat his Demon Deacons.
During the first home game of his final season, he wasn’t going to let it happen again.
Childress hit a jumper with 0.9 seconds remaining, and Wake Forest rallied to beat Columbia 65-63 on Sunday.
“Just fight. We kept fighting,” Childress said. “You have to have a dog mentality.”
Chaundee Brown scored 20 points and Childress finished with 11 to lead the Demon Deacons (1-1), who trailed by four points in the final minute before finding a way to avoid their third home-opening loss in the past decade.
“Our guys didn’t panic down the stretch,” coach Danny Manning said. “There was no panic in their eyes.”
Mike Smith scored 23 points for the Lions (0-2), including eight in a row down the stretch. His free throw with 51 seconds to play put Columbia up 63-59.
“I thought Mike Smith played like an all-ACC-level guard,” coach Jim Engles said.
Brown started the comeback with a three-point play on Wake Forest’s ensuing possession, and the Demon Deacons got it back after a Columbia turnover. Brown then hit a free throw that tied it 63 with 17.1 seconds left, then missed the foul shot that followed, but the rebound went out of bounds off a Columbia player’s hand.
Childress wound up with the ball at the key and drove the lane on Smith, shaking free with a spin move and putting up a jump shot that bounced off the iron twice before dropping through.
“Wish it would have bounced three more times” to run out the clock, Manning quipped.
The Lions called two timeouts before Jake Killingsworth inbounded to Smith, who took two dribbles before his half-court heave at the horn bounced off the glass.
Columbia: The short-handed Lions, picked to finish next-to-last in an Ivy League dominated by favorites Harvard and Pennsylvania and playing without No. 2 scorer Gabe Stefanini (foot), could have made a statement by going on the road and beating an ACC school for the first time since they beat Wake Forest in the schools’ only previous matchup in 1969. Killingsworth had 10 rebounds but they were outrebounded 48-37 — and none was more significant than the one on Brown’s missed free throw in the final seconds.
“We’ve just got to stay confident and build off of it,” Engles said.
Wake Forest: Houston Baptist, Gardner-Webb and Georgia Southern nearly had some company on the list of lower-level programs to come into Joel Coliseum and upset Manning’s Demon Deacons. Credit to Brown and Childress for preventing a repeat — even after they blew an eight-point lead with 6½ minutes left.
“We’ve got to do a better job of building off leads once we get them,” Manning said.
Childress’ clutch shot helped mask an otherwise rough day. He had as many turnovers (five) as field goals, finishing 5 of 15 with just two assists, and was 1 of 4 from the free-throw line.
Columbia shot 40% from the field while Wake Forest was at 35% — numbers that improved after a rocky start. The teams combined to miss 14 consecutive shots during one brutal 3½-minute stretch and the Demon Deacons missed 14 of their first 15 attempts largely because they settled for long jumpers.
“We have to get off to better starts offensively,” Manning said. “That takes away from our aggressiveness when we settle for those shots.”
Columbia: Plays Binghamton on Wednesday night in its home opener.
Wake Forest: Plays host to UNC Asheville on Wednesday night in its final home game until Dec. 7.