WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – A.J. English and Iona got the offense going early, knocking down big shots and plenty of 3-pointers that ultimately gave the Gaels just enough cushion to hang on late.
English scored 27 points to help Iona beat Wake Forest 85-81 Friday night, earning a rare win for the program against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent.
The Gaels (2-1) shot 48 percent and made 13 3-pointers while repeatedly coming up with baskets to answer most every spurt the Demon Deacons (2-2) could manage.
"Even if people don't think it, we always feel like we can play with anybody in the country or we just try to have that mindset," English said.
Iona, the preseason pick to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, improved to 7-24 all-time against ACC teams.
The Gaels had five players in double figures for an offense that stumbled in Tuesday's 86-73 loss at Wofford.
"We did not really compete or share the ball (at Wofford) in the second half," Iona coach Tim Cluess said. "Tonight our guys realized that the only chance we have is to trust each other on both ends of the floor."
Codi Miller-McIntyre scored 20 points to lead the Demon Deacons, who lost their second straight under first-year coach Danny Manning. They trailed 41-33 at halftime, though they erased much of a 13-point deficit before a late comeback fell just short.
"It's a game where if we come out and play like we did for certain stretches in the second half, it might be a different outcome," Manning said. "But we're not going to beat any teams if we let them shoot 48 percent from the field. That's something we have to get better at."
Wake Forest made it a one-possession game in the final minute, the last time coming on Miller-McIntyre's runner to make it 81-79 with 23.1 seconds left.
But Manning called an immediate timeout when he didn't have one, a technical foul with that allowed English and Ryden Hines to hit 2 of 4 free throws to make it a two-possession game again.
That turned back Wake Forest's desperate push, and Ibn Muhammad hit a final free throw with 4.4 seconds left that sealed the win.
English hit six 3-pointers and came up with timely baskets, hitting one 3 over Mitchell Wilbekin to push the lead back to 68-58 near the 9-minute mark and then hitting another near the 7-minute mark for Iona's biggest lead at 74-61.
"We didn't make it tough enough on him tonight," Manning said.
Iona: David Laury finished with 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting. ... Iona shot just 12 for 24 from the foul line. ... A.J. English and Isaiah Williams combined to make 10 of 20 3-pointers.
Wake Forest: Mitchell Wilbekin and fellow freshman Cornelius Hudson joined graduate transfer Darius Leonard in getting their first starts this year after Wednesday's blowout loss at Arkansas. ... Madison Jones and Dinos Mitoglou each had 10 points.
Devin Thomas had a tough night offensively, finishing with 12 points on 2-for-8 shooting while drawing a lot of defensive attention in the paint. But he finished with 18 rebounds for his fourth straight double-double this year.
The Demon Deacons shot just 27 percent (9 for 33) in the opening half to fall behind, though they shot nearly 49 percent after halftime and dominated the boards to get back in it.
WILLIAMS' BIG DAY
Isaiah Williams added 15 points and a career-best 10 rebounds for Iona. He also had four assists, two steals and a block in 33 minutes.
Iona travels to North Texas on Sunday.
Wake Forest hosts Nicholls State on Monday.
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