Winston-Salem, N.C. - Wake Forest (8-4) overcame UNCW's 26-13 run to and an eight-rebound deficit in the second half, scoring on 19 of its last 21 to win the battle on the boards 37-35 and ultimately the game 87-78.
After the Seahawks defeated the Demon Deacons 81-69 last season Star News reporter Brian Mull wrote, "C.J. Harris, who should probably be playing for a CAA school." The Winston-Salem native put those remarks to rest, as he carried the Deacs down the stretch to finish with 23 points.
"I just had a chip on my shoulder, because it really made me mad at the beginning," Harris said. "He said what he had to say. Everybody has their opinion."
Wake was in grave need of Harris' scoring, because Travis McKie struggled immensely to find a rhythm until deep into the second half.
The Seahawks (3-7) game-planned for Harris and McKie, but were not prepared for what Nikita Mescheriakov had awaiting them. Mescheriakov reached double figures in points for just the third this season with 13 points.
"Nikita is an energy player, there's no question about that," Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "He's always in constant motion. He's worked hard to be efficient with that emotion and he's worked hard on his shooting, especially with Coach [Jeff] Battle. They were in the gym for over an hour the last couple of days extra. He plays with a lot of emotion and that's a great thing."
It was a full team effort for the Demon Deacons, as the supporting cast was teeming with production to supplement Harris and Mescheriakov's efforts. Tony Chennault scored 15 points, Carson Desrosiers added his second double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds and Chase Fischer chipped in a quiet 14 points as a sub.
Wake needed all of it as freshman Adam Smith led all scorers with a sizzling 32 points (27 in the second half) to keep UNCW in striking distance.
"[Adam] Smith got hot there for a bit, but give Wake Forest a lot of credit," UNCW head coach Buzz Peterson said. "We couldn't stop them on the other end. Free throws were a little lopsided but we had to do a lot of fouling there towards the end and we could never get it under a two-possession ball game there late."
Free throws were a major key Wake Forest's success, as the Demon Deacons shot 33-43 from the charity stripe to the Seahawks 14-19.
UNCW battle foul trouble at the end when guard KK Smith and forward Keith Rendleman (14 points and 10 rebounds) fouled out in the last 3:31.