WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) - Wake Forest isn’t just threatening records with its offense anymore. Defense-minded coach Dino Gaudio has things clicking at the other end of the court.
In their best defensive performance in more than 60 years, the 19th-ranked Demon Deacons held Winston-Salem State to a Joel Coliseum-record scoring low in a 62-31 rout of the Rams on Monday night.
It came five days after Wake Forest reeled off 120 points - two points shy of the school’s scoring record - against UNC Wilmington.
“That just says that, finally, we’re starting to guard - and coach Gaudio won’t be too hard on us in practice,” guard Harvey Hale quipped.
Jeff Teague scored 14 points and Wake Forest (3-0) shook off a sloppy first half by shooting 68 percent in the second half and holding the Rams (0-3) to one field goal during a 15 1/2-minute stretch that spanned halftime in completing a three-game sweep of instate mid-majors.
Wake Forest, which entered averaging an Atlantic Coast Conference-best 107 points, finished 45 points below that but overcame its 23 turnovers by generating 22 takeaways against a team that seemed determined to slow things down with its four-corners offense.
“They weren’t even looking to score,” Hale said.
The Demon Deacons held the Rams to a season-low 14 points at halftime - notable even for a team that has yet to score 50 points in a game. Winston-Salem State shot 28 percent and didn’t score its 20th point until the 12 1/2-minute mark.
“They played a lackadaisical kind of game. They held the ball outside, and it’s kind of rough, playing 35 seconds of defense and then coming down, you know you want to get the game flowing, you take a quick shot and then you’ve got to wait again,” Teague said. “Coach Gaudio switched it up in the second half, brought some pressure and it kind of got them running.”
Jamal Durham finished with 14 points, but no other Rams had more than four as they surpassed the 19-year-old building’s previous low set by High Point in Wake Forest’s 79-35 win on Dec. 17, 1999. The Demon Deacons haven’t allowed that few points since 1947-48 - six seasons before they joined the ACC - when they beat Atlantic Christian 61-30.
“We kind of game-planned just to slow them down a little bit, and we felt if we slowed them down and got off to a good start offensively, that we’d have a chance to be in the game,” Rams coach Bobby Collins said. “We haven’t shot the ball well in our previous two games, so we knew that we were going to struggle, but we were going to make it as difficult as possible for them to score as well.”
Teague - who had five of Wake Forest’s 18 first-half turnovers - scored the final six points of a 12-0 run that started the second half and pushed the lead into double figures to stay. He capped the burst with about 16 minutes left, when his hanging jumper made it 33-14.
The Demon Deacons made 10 of their first 13 shots after halftime, took a 20-point lead on Teague’s basket with 13 minutes left and stretched the lead to 30 when Al-Farouq Aminu’s three-point play with 7 1/2 minutes left made it 50-20.
Wake Forest’s strong second half was a stark contrast to the mistake-filled opening 20 minutes, when it was hard to tell which team was in the national rankings and which was a relative newcomer to Division I.
“We didn’t come out mentally ready to play, and that’s on me,” Gaudio said. “We told them, ‘These guys play against you in the summer league.’ … They’re not going to come in here intimidated in any way, shape or form, and they didn’t.”
The Demon Deacons had nearly as many turnovers as points (21) at halftime, shot 35 percent and held a seven-point lead over a Rams team that went 10 minutes between field goals and hit one basket during the final 11 1/2 minutes of the half.
“Coach talked about us, we didn’t look like an elite team,” Hale said. “That’s all he has to do to ignite a little fire under us, because we really want to be good.”
Winston-Salem State didn’t make a shot after halftime until Durham’s jumper 5 minutes in.
“Tonight was a rough day at the office, because they held the ball so long,” Teague said. “But we can guard, too.”