WINSTON-SALEM--A Wake Forest basketball team hoping to eradicate three years of losing took its first steps Friday night, defeating the Colgate Raiders 89-78 at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Demon Deacons overcame an 8-point second half deficit on the strength of 23 points from sophomore Devin Thomas and 21 from Codi Miller-McIntyre to notch the win.
Head coach Jeff Bzdelik lauded the offensive efforts of his charges, but lamented the defensive lapses that caused so much trouble for his team.
"We shot it well offensively and only turned the ball over five times," Bzdelik said. "We need to step it up defensively and contain the ball better as well as guard the arc better. We are fortunate to get the win and move on and get better tomorrow."
Colgate (0-1) took advantage of spotty perimeter defense by the Deacs and shot 9-19 from the 3-point line in the first half alone. The Raiders were led by guard Pat Moore's 17 points, including 5 three pointers.
"It's a great experience for us, for a Patriot League to come down and play in an ACC environment," Raider head coach Matt Langel said. "This is what our guys live for. I was proud of our guys for the most part for what they did. I think we showed some signs of what we're capable of but we weren't able to do it for 40 minutes."
The Demon Deacons (1-0) looked to be headed for another disastrous night at the foul line, hitting only 5-12 from the stripe in the first half. When it mattered most, however, the Deacs began to knock them down and finished 24-36 (67%). A repeat of the woeful 39% performance against Brevard might have spelled doom for the Deacs on this night, in a game that was hotly contested throughout.
The Deacs were 31-64 from the field (48.4%) and committed only 5 turnovers in the victory. Miller-McIntyre and senior Travis McKie each snagged 7 rebounds and the Deacons won the rebounding battle 41-39. True to his word, Bzdelik took advantage of his depth and 9 Demon Deacons played double-digit minutes against the Raiders. In the end, the Raiders could not stop Thomas in the paint and could not match the quickness of Miller-McIntyre as the Deacs wrapped up win No. 1 of the season.
"We were not good defensively," McKie said. "We know we must be much better on that side of the ball. We can use this game as a stepping stone. Obviously it's the first game- you don't wan't to hit the panic button. Most of their threes came on drive-and-kicks. Give credit to them, they knocked down shots."
The bulk of Miller-McIntyre's points came in a second half barrage that at one point saw the guard score 14 in a row. Bzdelik chose to leave Miller-McIntyre on the bench to start the half and the sophomore responded with a near-flawless offensive performance.
"Randolph Childress always tells me, 'Stop thinking and just play,' and that's what i did when I got in. I just stopped thinking about whatever was happening and I just played."
Next up for the Deacs is a date with VMI next Tuesday night at the Joel. Tip-off is set for 7 P.M. and will be televised on ESPN3.