Wake Forest beats UNC-Greensboro 59-51

BILL KISER (Associated Press)
The Associated Press

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) -- Wake Forest didn't have one of its best offensive games of the season Saturday against UNC Greensboro.

Defensively, it was a different story for the Demon Deacons, who head into their Christmas break riding a four-game winning streak after a 59-51 victory over the Spartans.

Devin Thomas scored 12 points and pulled down 13 rebounds, and Wake Forest came up with several key stops to weather a second-half rally by UNC Greensboro.

Tyler Cavanaugh added 12 points and Codi Miller-McIntyre scored all of his 11 points in the second half for the Demon Deacons (10-2), who overcame a slow start to lead by as many as 12 points in the first half.

''We were fortunate to win (because) we struggled offensively,'' Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik said. ''Give UNCG a lot of credit for that. Fortunately, we defended well enough to keep us on top for most of the game. It's our defense that really won us this basketball game.''

While the Demon Deacons shot 44.9 percent (22 of 49) from the field, they only made 2 of 14 3-pointers (14.3 percent) and 13 of 30 free throws (43.3 percent) - far off Wake Forest's season percentages of 35.3 and 64.7 percent, respectively.

The Demon Deacons also turned the ball over 14 times, and barely out-rebounded the Spartans (6-7) 41-40 - also far off Wake Forest's season rebounding margin average of plus-10, ranked 12th nationally entering Saturday's game.

''We just didn't play well today,'' Thomas said. ''It's fair to assume that we were looking forward to Christmas ... but they played hard, and we really didn't run our offense. A win's a win, but it's not a win the way that we want to win.

''We didn't take care of the ball. We weren't moving the ball well, not screening, not coming off our cuts hard, we didn't shoot well, we didn't make free throws well - everything we need to do to be successful on offense.''

It was the Demon Deacons' defense that proved the difference. In addition to holding UNC Greensboro to 25.8 percent from the field (8 of 31) in the first half and 31.7 percent (19 of 60) for the game - its worst shooting game of the season - Wake Forest also held the Spartans to 1 of 15 on 3-pointers.

''We really played well defensively; unfortunately, it didn't go our way on the offensive end,'' UNC Greensboro head coach Wes Miller said. ''We were a couple of shots away from not just being in the game, but coming away from here with a win.''

Behind Kyle Cain (16 points and 14 rebounds) and Kayel Locke (14 points), the Spartans (6-7) rallied from a 29-22 halftime deficit to cut the Demon Deacons' lead to 44-42 on a Locke jumper with 6:46 remaining.

That's when Wake Forest's defense stepped up, and so did Miller-McIntyre.

In a 3-minute span, Miller-McIntyre converted a UNC Greensboro turnover into a layup, scored on a fast-break layup following a steal, scored again on the fast break off another steal, then came up with a steal that set up a pair of Travis McKie free throws during an 11-4 run.

Suddenly, the Demon Deacons' two-point lead was now 55-46 with 2:15 remaining. The Spartans could pull no closer than seven points the rest of the way.

''We were really locked in,'' on defense, Miller-McIntyre said. ''That's probably the first time this season that the whole team has been that locked in on defense.''

However, both teams struggled in the opening minutes of the first half, with Wake Forest turning the ball over on its first two possessions and missing its first four shots. UNC Greensboro wasn't much better, going 0 for 6 from the field in the first four minutes.

Yet the Spartans got hot right after that, with Cain dropping in a jumper and layup, followed by Locke making two free throws and a layup during an 8-2 run that put UNC Greensboro ahead 9-6 with 12:19 remaining.

The Demon Deacons responded with their own run, outscoring the Spartans 21-6 over the next 9 1/2 minutes to take control.

Thomas scored seven straight points during the run, including a short jumper with 8:38 left to put Wake Forest ahead. Cavanaugh made back-to-back 3-pointers to push the Demon Deacons' lead into double figures, and McKie followed up a missed free throw to give them a 27-15 lead with 2:27 left, their biggest of the half.

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