Winston-Salem, N.C. - Chase Fischer drove the lane and kicked it out to a wide open Carson Desrosiers, who sank the three-pointer to extend Wake Forest's lead to 66-57 with 2:10 left in the game, giving the Demon Deacons the cushion they needed to coast to a 75-63 season opening victory over Loyola (Md).
"At the end we were really in there, and we thought they'd make a mistake and take a shot, and they drove it and kicked it for the big guy's three," Loyola (Md) head coach Jimmy Patsos said. "That was a killer. I've got to watch the tape, but I felt like the game was right there for anybody's taking. We missed a couple, and they made a couple. There was a couple of loose balls they got and we didn't. That's why you play them."
Despite an 0-4 start from the free-throw line, and sitting for a long time due to foul trouble in the second half C.J. Harris led the way with 20 points, while Travis McKie overcame a leg cramp to finish with 19 points.
"It was a great win for us," Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "A young basketball team, sometimes we had three freshmen again out there that showed a lot of grit and determination, and fought from wire to wire. I'm really proud of my basketball team."
Clinging to a 50-48 lead with 9:17 remaining in the contest Harris was on the bench with four fouls and McKie was out nursing his cramp.
With the odds stacked against them the Deacs rallied. Nikita Mescheriakov capped a 9-0 scoring run with a layup that gave Wake Forest a 55-48 advantage at the 8:01 mark.
"That was the turning point in the game, really," Harris said. "The people we had out there, we had two or three freshmen out there they played extremely well. We need everybody, and that shows it."
The Demon Deacons had to know they were in for a fight when their 11-point first half lead evaporated to a 48-48 draw when Erik Etherly playing with a broken nose nailed the game-tying three pointer with 10:38 left in the game.
Like Bzdelik said this young team often played with two to three freshmen on the court at a time, and though he down-played the predicament his team was in it was impressive to see Wake overcome Harris' foul trouble and McKie's cramp.
However some major concerns linger.
The first being free-throw shooting, and if not fixed it could torment the Deacs the rest of the season. Wake shot an abysmal 22-46 from the charity stripe, with Harris (shot 81-percent from the free-throw line last season) going 6-12.
"We're a good free-throw shooting team," Bzdelik said. "This is how I look at it, we went to the line 46 times, and that's a positive right there. Of course we needed every single one of those attempts, but that's a great thing. We were aggressive going to the rim, and aggressive attacking them, so I'll just look at it from the glass being half full, because we'll make our free throws."
The Greyhounds full-court press forced the Demon Deacons into 17 turnovers, which resulted in 18 points for Loyola.
"It seemed like we stood a lot," Bzdelik said. "We just kind of looked like a deer in the head lights. We had three freshmen out there at one time. A couple of times we caught the ball, and we weren't ball-strong. We just simply tried to catch it and go instead of just catching it, turning, facing, looking. A couple of times we just caught the ball, and tried to just throw it back without facing the court, and we didn't see where the defense was."