Wake Forest beats Jacksonville, 90-83
Wake Forest had its worst shooting game of the still-young season against Jacksonville on Monday.
Yet it was the Demon Deacons' inside game that gave them the edge in a 90-83 victory over the Dolphins, and their first 4-0 start in Jeff Bzdelik's tenure as head coach.
Travis McKie scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Wake Forest (4-0), which overcame its shooting problems with solid rebounding to post their longest winning streak since the 2009-2010 season.
Codi Miller-McIntyre added 20 points, Coron Williams 14 and Tyler Cavanaugh 12 for the Demon Deacons, who shot a season-low 38.7 percent (29 of 75) from the field.
However, Wake Forest — led by McKie and Devin Thomas, who had 16 rebounds — enjoyed a 57-40 advantage on the boards. That included a 25-12 margin on the offensive glass, leading to a 22-14 edge in second-chance points.
"That was one of the keys — attacking the offensive glass," said McKie after his first double-double of the season and the 17th of his career. "(Jacksonville) wanted to get out and run. They wanted to get free for the fast-break points, so they're not a good rebounding team. We wanted to punish them for that."
The Demon Deacons' 57 rebounds equaled their season best, while the 25 offensive boards was a season high. That improves their season average to 50.2 per game, tops in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"It can be our strength, if we want it to be," said Thomas, who finished one rebound shy of his career high. "We've just got to crash the glass, and work hard for those rebounds every game. We should be able to get some points off those offensive boards and second-chance points, so (Monday) was big for us."
Wake Forest needed such as edge against the Dolphins (1-3), who fought back from a double-digit deficit in the first half to lead twice in the second.
Jarvis Haywood had 19 points to lead four other players in double figures for Jacksonville, which trailed 46-39 at the half. But the Dolphins took brief leads twice over a 2-minute span midway through the final period.
Haywood hit a layup with 11:06 left to put Jacksonville up 62-61, their first lead of the game, and Vince Martin's layup with 9 minutes remaining gave it a 67-66 lead.
The Demon Deacons came back both times. Williams nailed a 3-pointer 27 seconds after Haywood's layup to put Wake Forest ahead, and Miller-McIntyre hit another 3 after Martin's basket to put them ahead to stay.
Sam Hunt added 15 points, Marcel White 14 and R.J. Slawson and Martin had 11 points each for Jacksonville, which lost its second straight game.
"We did a great job of executing on offense when we got defensive stops, steals and turnovers," Dolphins head coach Cliff Warren said. "Unfortunately, we didn't do a good enough job getting rebounds. They did an excellent job getting on the offensive glass."
McKie scored 12 points in the first half, 10 coming in the first 5 minutes as the Demon Deacons shot 60 percent from the field in building an early double-digit lead.
Wake Forest scored on 10 of its first 13 possessions and out-rebounded the Dolphins 12-2 in the span, pulling ahead 21-8 on Thomas' layup with 14:55 left.
The Demon Deacons led by as many as 16 points midway through the period, going up 33-17 on Williams' 3-pointer with 8:45 remaining.
However, Jacksonville rallied in the final 8 minutes, cutting Wake Forest's lead to 42-37 on Haywood's runner with 48 seconds left.
But the Demon Deacons got a tip-in from Arnaud William Adala Moto and a layup from Cavanaugh in the final 15 seconds to take a 46-37 lead at the halftime break.
"We played very, very well the first eight minutes," Bzdelik said. "Then we got a little sloppy. But we showed a lot of grit and mental toughness, and reclaimed this game.
"We're excited about where we are, but we know we've got to get better. There's no question about that, but we're making progress and getting some traction."