Winston-Salem, NC - Travis McKie was not about to let go of the Skip Prosser Classic trophy, the only hardware his team has won since arrival to Wake Forest, after the Demon Deacons defeated Xavier 66-59.
"My freshman year we went up there [to Xavier], and we played pretty well when we went up there we just lost," McKie said. "Especially for Coach [Jeff] Battle and Coach [Walt] Corbean really had connections with Coach Prosser."
"I think none of us never met him one-on-one, but we wanted to win for those two guys, because they had a special connection [to him]. This game really met something to them, so this is for them."
Wake engineered a 21-5 scoring run to boost its lead to 42-31 with 15:22 remaining in the game, but only to see it disappear when Xavier (7-6) mounted a spurt of its own to claim a 49-48 advantage when Jeff Robinson made a jump-shot at the 6:39 mark.
The Deacs proceeded to outscore the Musketeers 18-11 to turn the lights out on Xavier, using a 13-2 run that gave Wake Forest a 60-49 lead with 2:34 left in regulation.
"When Robinson hit that jumper and we went down one we responded in a great way," Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "[I'm] just really pleased [with my players]. They showed a lot of grit. It was hard-fought game."
It took an 8-0 deficit following the tip-off before the Demon Deacons to awake from their holiday slumber. Codi Miller-McIntyre arrived in time to ignite a game-tying 8-0 surge with six of his 16 points that gave Wake the breath of life it so desperately needed.
"It didn't want to get showed up on my home-court," Miller-McIntyre said. "The previous game I wasn't aggressive. I would play laid back and my game's attacking the rim and getting to the middle of the court and I think starting this [new] year off this will fuel me on to the ACC games."
McKie was the fuel that burned for Wake Forest, as he scored 11 of his game-high 19 points and pulled down of his eight rebounds in the second half. C.J. Harris made 5-6 free-throws down the stretch to keep the game out of Xavier's reach on his way to 15 points.
"I'm out of that little drought that I was in for those three or four games," Harris said. "I just settled in and played my game."
The Deacs needed all hands on deck to slow down Travis Taylor, whose 16 points and seven rebounds kept the Musketeers in striking distance in the first half.
Devin Thomas answered the bell following the intermission to hold Taylor to two points and three rebounds in the second half. Wake's freshman forward from Harrisburg, Pa. scored all seven of his points and ripped down eight of his career-high 14 rebounds after the break.
--- Wake Forest celebrated the life of Skip Prosser with a video and a letter from the former coach's mother Jo Prosser, who is known affectionately as Grandma Jo.
--- The Demon Deacons took advantage of Xavier's mistakes with a 29-18 edge in points off turnovers.
--- Wake shot significantly better than the Musketeers from behind the arc, making 8-19 three pointers to a 1-8 effort from Xavier.
--- The Deacs played suffocating defense, forcing Xavier into a season-worst 20 turnovers.
--- Bench production must improve for Wake. Xavier's bench outscored Wake's 17-7.
--- Neither team shot well from the free-throw line, but the Deacs must improve on its 55.2-percent shooting from the charity stripe with ACC play drawing near.
--- The Xavier basketball team stayed in its locker room for two-and-a-half hours after the game.
Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik
Opening statement: "As a basketball coach I'm really pleased and happy for our basketball players. They have worked extremely hard over the last several days since returning from the Christmas break. They will tell you that I've been very hard on them, and they've responded very well. I'm very happy and pleased for them, because they fought hard."
What happened after that rough start? What to you changed? "I didn't change anything. To be honest with you I just think we start three freshmen and people might think it's an excuse; no they just need to find themselves. They just need to get into the game, and understand that they can play."
"We got some stops and we got some easy baskets in transition. Travis started us off I think with a mid-range J, and Codi got himself a couple of buckets and got us going."
Xavier head coach Chris Mack
Opening statement: "Give a lot of credit to Wake Forest and Coach Bzdelik. I thought their kids did a really good job of competing tonight, I know they're very young. Their ability to turn us over, mostly in the half-court and our inability to finish around the basket in the second half prevented us from winning the game."
"We've got to do a much better job. We've been pretty good up until the past two games of protecting the basketball and not turning it over. We're making, in my opinion, careless decisions with the basketball."
"We have to show a little more patience, and that to me was the story. Look at field goals were even, free throws were even, rebounds were fairly even, turnovers for both teams were fairly even."
"Their ability to make threes and our inability to connect from the three-point line … we had to make up for it by making shots around the basket; through conventional and-ones. But give Wake Forest a lot of credit, we've got to pick ourselves up off the mat and it's frustrating."