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College Basketball: Wake Forest 92, Gardner-Webb 60

By David Shaw

Salisbury Post

WINSTON-SALEM — It was a game only the math majors could love.

Wake Forest’s 92-60 win over visiting Gardner-Webb on Tuesday is a story best told with numbers. The Demon Deacons shot 67 percent from the floor — fifth-best in school history — and dished out a season-high 28 assists. Most importantly, they halted a four-game losing streak, won for the first time since Nov. 25 and improved to 6-4.

“This was a feel-good game at a time when we needed a feel-good game,” said Wake coach Skip Prosser. “We played hard. Ideally, you’re gonna play hard every night. But you’re not gonna have a parade down Cherry Street every time you do.”

The parade inside half-filled Lawrence Joel Coliseum didn’t kick off until G-W’s Chris Gash drained a 3-pointer from the right side, sliding the Bulldogs within 14-12 with 11:15 remaining in the first half. Five different Wake players scored in a decisive 18-0 flurry that cracked the game open.

“We stepped up our denying,” said senior Michael Drum, one of three Deacs to score 13 points. “We made sure they couldn’t get the ball in good scoring position. We stopped letting them run their plays.”

G-W coach Rick Scruggs knew Wake had been an inconsistent team of late — and used that to motivate the 2-8 Bulldogs.

“We came out playing pretty confident and sort of loose,” he said. “Then they went on that 18-0 run. After that they didn’t look like a team that’s been struggling with shots. I guess we helped get them back on track.”

The Deacs were clearly moving in the right direction with 4:54 to play in the first half. That’s when freshmen Ishmael Smith and L.D. Williams played tic-tac-toe on a fastbreak down the middle of the court. Williams brought the enthusiastic crowd to its feet with an alley-oop dunk that made it 37-18.

“I remember L.D. getting to a spot,” Smith said after contributing seven assists in 20 minutes. “I was trying to make the (defender) commit to me or commit to him. When he committed to me that’s when I laid it up there and he did the rest.”

There was little rest for the visitors, who shot 36.5 percent from the field — yet placed five scorers in double figures.

“We obviously were in a game where we were outmatched,” said Scruggs. “Coming off those losses, I knew they’d be hungry. I’ll tell you, Wake Forest didn’t panic. For a young team they did some nice things with the shot clock running down.”

Prosser, who seemed more harried than a Christmas shopper, was most pleased with the Deacs’ assist total — the third best in school history.

“Often times when the score gets out of hand, players are out there hunting shots,” he said. “That didn’t seem to be the case tonight.”

The case last night was decided by shooting (36-for-54), three-point marksmanship (10-for-15), defense and rebounding (a 37-26 Wake advantage).

“We’ve been down on ourselves with the losing streak,” Smith said. “So it’s always great to get a win and get out of that. It becomes a lot more fun.”

Especially for the math majors.

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NOTES: Wake’s reserves contributed 51 points off the bench. … Seven-footer Chas McFarland became the tallest player in Wake history to make a 3-pointer when he knocked one down from the top of the key late in the first half. The mark was previously held by 6-11 Kyle Visser, who got his against Elon last season. … Davie County graduate Matt Smith played the final 1:24 and had one turnover. … Wake returns to action Friday night when Richmond visits.

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