Greensboro - Wake Forest (6-5) engineered an 11-2 scoring run to end the first half with a nine-point lead on its way to an 84-70 win over a struggling UNCG (2-8) team and a much needed Christmas break with ACC competition just around the corner.
"We finished the half strong," Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "That gave us some separation, and really helped."
C.J. Harris was Wake's sources of offense in the first half (nine of his 11 points came before halftime), but battled foul trouble following the intermission. Travis McKie emerged in the second half to finish with team-high 19 points.
"Just seeing the ball go through the basket that's all it is," McKie said. "Just being aggressive, just doing what my team needs to do and I just started to make shots."
Chase Fischer was another Demon Deacon, who made shots and was aggressive. The sophomore from West Virginia scored 13 points (4-5 from the field, 3-3 from three-point land and 2-2 from the free-throw line), including a three-pointer that put the Deacs up seven at the 1:06 mark in the first half and another to extend Wake's lead to 12 with 13:01 left in regulation.
"I thought Fischer's threes were really tough," UNCG head coach Wes Miller said. "I thought they were just daggers. Certainly we knew coming into the game that's what he does, but he hit a couple of big ones. A couple of them he got off of breakdowns."
While Fischer's shots may have been daggers to the Spartan cause Wake Forest did not yield a single offensive rebound or second chance point to UNCG in the first half.
--- Devin Thomas had his best game in Black and Gold with 12 points, six rebounds, two assists and a block. He played well through contact and UNCG's physicality.
--- Aaron Rountree only played 19 minutes, but was a catalyst on defense with his three steals. He added six points and four rebounds, including a highlight-reel put-back dunk.
--- Wake Forest shot better than 50-percent from the field for the second game in a row. The Demon Deacons made 52.9-percent from the field, 43.8-percent from three-point land and 71.9-percent from the free-throw line against the Spartans. UNCG was held to 42.9-percent shooting from the field.
Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik
On the fluidity of the offense and how his team is getting better: "We are getting better. I keep bringing this up. Since that Nebraska second half we've played some pretty good basketball with the exception of a few minutes down the stretch against Seton Hall, but we've been consistent."
"We're understanding time and score a little bit better. Just offensively everybody's understanding the rules. It's coming together and of course it's coming together at the right time, because of what's ahead."
What did you see about the difference of the rhythm of your offense today compared to previous games? "Well, that again this is a work in progress with a group of guys thrown together for the first time and they're doing a really nice job. We've got good balance."
"We shot 58-percent in the second half, so obviously that's very, very good. We're combining that with our defense getting better as well."
On Devin Thomas: "Devin's getting better. He's worked very hard with his free throws, and we've seen a vast improvement there. He's really outstanding. He can be an outstanding defensive player, because of his force, his power, his size and his quickness."
"He gets out there on ball screens, and he recovers well and hold position in the post and he's rebounding the ball well. He's an excellent passer as well. Again, he is like our other players. They're getting better."
Coach, will you talk about the defensive energy that Aaron Rountree brought you guys today? "He came up big there. Aaron's the type of player that can impact a game without taking a shot. He really prides himself defensively. He's long. He's athletic. His mind is one step ahead of most plays, which part of being an excellent defender."
UNCG head coach Wes Miller
Opening statement: "I was actually pleased with our effort tonight. I didn't think we had consistent effort in our last two games at James Madison and at [UNC] Wilmington, and was pleased that they really tried tonight. Our guys really tried."
"We're not playing good basketball right now as a group. I got to figure out a way to get us on a better track, but we're trying to do it right and I really believe if we continue to try to do it right and our kids stay bought into what we're doing we're going to be okay as we move on through the year, but we're certainly not at a good place right now."
"We're a little disappointed about how we started, but we're not going to give in. We're going to keep playing, and then certainly guys you got to give Wake Forest a lot of credit. I thought they made big shots, especially any time we started to make a run they made a play."
"I think Coach Bzdelik's got a bunch of young guys and he's done a good job, because they played with a lot of poise tonight, so you got to give Wake Forest some credit too."