McKie, Deacs stop Spartans, 84-70
Wake Forest continued to look better on offense Saturday.
UNC Greensboro continued to have its struggles.
The Demon Deacons took control with a 12-2 run at the end of the first half, moved the ball well at times and shot 57.7 percent in the second and held off the Spartans 84-70 at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Travis McKie went to the basket more aggressively after the break and led Wake (6-5) with 19 points. Chase Fischer hit all three of his 3-point attempts and finished with 13 points. Freshman center Devin Thomas added a career-high 12 while senior guard C.J. Harris contributed 11 despite sitting out a good stretch of the second half because of foul trouble.
“Since the second half against Nebraska (five games agv), we’ve been playing some pretty good basketball except for the last 12 minutes against Seton Hall (when the Deacons blew a 12-point lead),” Bzdelik said.
“Offensively, everyone is understanding their roles. It’s coming together and it’s coming together at the right time.
“We shot 58 percent and our defense is getting better. They had no offensive rebounds in the first half. That’s another step in the right direction.”
McKie wasn’t all rosy about the Deacons progression on offense.
“We’re getting better,” he said. “We’re getting more comfortable with each other and running plays. But we still have a long way to go.”
UNCG dropped to 2-8 with its victories coming at the expense of Winston-Salem State and The Citadel. Trevis Simpson did hit 10 of 18 shots in pacing the Spartans with 25 points. Derrell Armstrong added 16 and Kayel Locke had 10.
“We’re not playing good basketball as a group right now,” Spartans coach Wes Miller said. “We’re not in a good place right now and it’s my job to get us going in the right direction.”
For the second straight game against a Southern Conference opponent, the Deacons didn’t assert themselves early. They were down 27-26 with just over two minutes left in the first half before going on a 12-2 run to lead 38-29 at the break. The Spartans never got closer than six.
“I think their physicality caught us off guard,” Bzdelik said. “We weren’t screening well and holding our position well. We were taking a lot of quick shots. Then we settled into changing our offensive intensity and did what we are supposed to do under duress, imposing our will to execute our offense.”
The run that gave the Deacons separation included a 10-0 spurt on two free throws by Harris, a shot at the rim and free throw from McKie and a 3 from Fischer.
“The most frustrating thing is that in the first half, we weren’t playing well and we were right there with them,” Miller said. And then we give up some and-ones. We’ve got to be more aggressive than letting them score and committing a tickey-tack foul.”
Even with its offensive efficiency, Wake never moved the margin past 15, which was achieved for the first time when Fischer hit a 3 with 8:12 left. But the Deacons answered each time UNCG edged the margin into single digits.
McKie said he made a conscious effort to be more aggressive in the second half.
“We were tying to run the offense all the way through,” McKie said. “I started feeling it a little bit more so I attacked and went to the rim.”