ACC Basketball: Wake Forest 81, Georgia Southern 73
WINSTON-SALEM ó Travis McKie is the closest thing Wake Forest has to a veteran star ó and heís only a sophomore.
McKie matched a career high with 23 points ó including six on one critical trip downcourt ó to lead the Demon Deacons past mistake-prone Georgia Southern 81-73 on Wednesday night.
ěAs a leader, I have to make sure my team is confident, they know what theyíre doing and they believe theyíre going to win every game,î McKie said. ěThat six-point swing definitely helped that.î
C.J. Harris added 20 points and Tony Chennault finished with 14 for the Demon Deacons (2-0), who shot 42.9 percent (24 of 56), overcame their 15 turnovers by forcing the Eagles into 22 miscues and held off Georgia Southernís comeback bid.
Jelani Hewitt finished with 18 points and five 3-pointers to lead Georgia Southern (0-2). Despite 49.1 percent (28 of 57) shooting, the Eagles fell to 8-35 against current Atlantic Coast Conference teams and were denied their first victory over a power-conference team since 1992.
Hewitt hit 3-pointers 25 seconds apart to pull Georgia Southern to 50-45 with 9:17 left before McKie single-handedly gave the Demon Deacons enough breathing room.
Chennault stole the ball and found McKie on a fast break. The sophomore forward was intentionally fouled by Cameron Baskerville while going up for a layup, and hit two free throws with 7:43 left. Wake Forest retained possession because of the foul, and McKie drew contact in the lane roughly 30 seconds later, knocking down two more free throws to make it 56-45.
ěThey were feeling great there and it just kind of put them back on their heels a little bit and gave us some separation, no question about it,î Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said. ěBut that play was a result of some defense.î
Georgia Southern didnít get closer than seven the rest of the way. The Demon Deacons sealed it by making 8 of 10 free throws in the final 1:01, and finished 27 of 34 from the foul line (79.4 percent).
Freshman Chase Fischer finished with 13 points while McKie equaled the 23 points he scored against Boston College last March for Wake Forest.
The Demon Deacons started three sophomores, brought three freshmen off the bench and have only one player ó Harris ó who saw the court for their most recent NCAA tournament team in 2010.
Not surprisingly, they were sloppy at times but overall took an encouraging step forward, after a miserable 2010-11 season marked by a humiliating string of losses to mid- and low-major programs and 15 ACC defeats. Before last year, Wake Forest had opened at least 2-0 every season since 1998.
ěWeíre still a very young basketball team, so we need to make some better decisions,î Bzdelik said. ěDribble less, pass more, see the whole court, see things kind of before they happen as opposed to after the fact.î
Eric Ferguson finished with 18 points, Willie Powers III had 13 and Ben Drayton III added 12 for the Eagles.