It wasn’t easy, but Wake Forest managed to win its first road game of the season. Coach Dino Gaudio thinks the experience will help his team, which has typically struggled away from home.
The sixth-ranked Demon Deacons look to remain unbeaten overall and win consecutive road games for the first time in three years when they visit in-state rival East Carolina on Monday.
Wake Forest (10-0) had little trouble winning during the first month of the season, outscoring its first nine opponents by an average margin of 22.0 points, with only one of the victories coming by fewer than 13 points. However, six of those wins came at home and the other three were at neutral sites.
It was a little tougher Friday, when the Demon Deacons had to hang on to win their first road game, 86-79 at Richmond.
Wake Forest led 73-68 with three minutes remaining, before making 9 of 10 free throws to put the game out of reach in the final minutes. The Demon Deacons, who are trying to start 11-0 for the first time since 2003-04, finished the game 27 of 33 from the line.
“I think it’s nice to have to scratch and claw and fight for every single thing, to have to make free throws down the stretch,” Gaudio said. “I think it bodes well for us down the road.”
The road has been unkind to Wake, which has lost 28 of its last 33 road contests. The Demon Deacons have not won back-to-back away games since December 2005.
East Carolina (8-2), meanwhile, has won three straight home games to improve to 6-1 at Minges Coliseum on the season.
The Pirates haven’t had much success against ranked opponents, however, losing 13 straight games versus Top 25 teams, including six in a row at home since a 73-70 win over No. 13 Marquette on Dec. 30, 2002.
The Demon Deacons, who defeated the Pirates 81-65 on Jan. 1, 2007, have won all five previous meetings between the schools, but have never visited East Carolina.
Wake’s offense is led by sophomore guard Jeff Teague, who is averaging an ACC-best 19.6 points. Teague scored 21 against Richmond, while junior center Chas McFarland added 20 points and 14 rebounds.
The Demon Deacons are averaging 80.6 points in their last five games, but needs to do a better job protecting the ball. Wake Forest turned the ball over 21 times Friday - the fourth time in the last five games the Deacons committed at least that many turnovers.
The Pirates had won five straight overall, but saw that streak snapped last Wednesday in an 87-76 loss at North Carolina State.
Sophomore guard Brock Young finished with a career-high 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists, but it wasn’t enough for the Pirates.
“It was a good effort on our part, but effort is not our problem. Execution is,” East Carolina coach Mack McCarthy said. “It’s hard sometimes to assimilate in practice what another team is going to do. We did not compete five-on-five like we should have, and that goes back to not being prepared in practice.”