ACC Basketball: Wake Forest 87, UNC Wilmington 78
WINSTON-SALEM ó Wake Forest let a big lead evaporate while allowing a hot shooter to carry his team back. Thatís a situation in which last yearís team probably would have folded.
Instead, these current Demon Deacons found a way to rally for another win.
C.J. Harris scored 23 points and six Wake Forest players reached double figures in an 87-78 victory against UNC Wilmington on Wednesday night.
Tony Chennault added 15 points for the Demon Deacons (8-4), who let an 11-point lead slip away in the second half before holding UNC Wilmington without a field goal for nearly 5 minutes as part of the decisive 21-6 run they mounted.
Would either of those things have happened during their miserable 8-24 finish in 2010-11?
ěProbably not,î forward Travis McKie said. ěItís hard to say weíd do anything last year.î
Freshman Adam Smith had season highs of 32 points and seven 3-pointers, and Keith Rendleman added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Seahawks (3-7). They led 58-54 on Tanner Milsonís 3 with just over 9 minutes left, but immediately went cold ó thanks in large part to what Harris said was extra focus on Smith.
ěAny time he was coming off a handoff or a ball screen, we wanted to make sure we had tremendous help ó even to the point where we were double-teaming almost and getting back,î Harris said. ěWe knew that heíll take and make tough shots.î
Harris ó who was 13 of 14 from the line ó and Chennault each hit two free throws, and Nikita Mescheriakovís foul shot with 7:45 left put Wake Forest ahead to stay. Chennaultís layup capped the run, making it 75-64 with just under 3 minutes left. UNC Wilmington couldnít get closer than six the rest of the way.
ěIf we were going to win this game tonight, we were going to have to make some outside shots,î Seahawks coach Buzz Peterson said. ěSmith got hot there for a little bit, but give Wake Forest a lot of credit.
We couldnít stop them on the other end.î
Chase Fischer finished with 14 points, Mescheriakov had 13, McKie added 11 and Carson Desrosiers had 10 points and 11 rebounds for Wake Forest, which has won five of seven and two straight.
This one wasnít always secure, though. Smith hit three 3s in less than 90 seconds ó all from the right wing ó during the 17-2 run that erased the Seahawksí double-digit deficit and gave them their first lead since the opening minutes.
His 3 from the right wing put UNC Wilmington up 48-44 with 131/2 minutes left, and his banked-in one-handed shot with 41/2 minutes left ended the Seahawksí long field goal drought down the stretch. Smith ó who was just 4 of 22 in his previous two games ó finished this one 12 of 22 from the field and 7 of 12 from 3-point range.
ěI tried to go out there relaxed tonight,î Smith said, adding that he asked the College of Charlestonís Andrew Goudelock for advice on shaking a slump. ěHe said, ëJust keep the confidence, and stay with your principles and donít think about it.í Thatís exactly what I did tonight, and sure enough, I was on, if thatís what you want to call it.î
UNC Wilmington routed the Demon Deacons 81-69 last year in Greensboro. In addition to being one of Petersonís first big victories with the Seahawks, that outcome marked one in a series of early-season indicators that things were amiss in Jeff Bzdelikís first season at Wake Forest ó which went on to lose a school-record 24 games and finish last in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
ěThe identity of this basketball team is this: They are a team and they care,î Bzdelik said. ěItís a collective effort from everyone. Thereís a lot of grit, a lot of passion, a lot of determination within this group, and it showed. Weíve had some games where teams have come back on us, and weíve been down. If your character and togetherness as a team isnít strong, teams will fold. But our team seems to rise to that occasion.î
There werenít many current Seahawks around for that one: UNC Wilmington started four freshmen, while Wake Forest was only slightly more experienced with three sophomores in the starting lineup.
The Demon Deacons twice went up by double figures in the first half, the first coming during a 22-7 run that Harris capped with a free throw to make it 22-12 with 10:26 left. They led by 11 four times, the last coming at 42-31 on Chennaultís free throw with 16:33 to play.
The Associated Press