Wake beats Xavier 66-59 for 3rd straight win
All those freshmen at Wake Forest have had to grow up in a hurry — and now they finally might be figuring out how to win.
Codi Miller-McIntyre had 16 points, fellow freshman Devin Thomas added a season-high 14 rebounds and the Demon Deacons beat Xavier 66-59 on Wednesday night for their third straight win.
Wake Forest's two elder statesmen had their usual big nights — Travis McKie scored 19 points and C.J. Harris added 15 — but two members of a seven-man freshman class made some of the biggest plays that helped the Demon Deacons match their longest winning streak under third-year coach Jeff Bzdelik.
"I'm more like a sophomore now," Miller-McIntyre said with a smile. "At least I hope."
Wake Forest (7-5) erased its only deficit of the second half by reeling off 12 straight points, and overcame 17 turnovers by forcing Xavier into 20 and turning them into 29 points.
"We were making, in my opinion, careless decisions with the basketball," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "You have to show a little more patience, and that, to me, was the story."
Travis Taylor had 18 points — but just two in the second half — and 10 rebounds for the Musketeers (7-6), who rallied from 11 points down and took a 49-48 lead on Jeff Robinson's jumper with just under seven minutes left.
But Xavier came up empty on eight straight possessions and went scoreless for 4½ critical minutes, while the Demon Deacons took over.
Thomas gave Wake Forest the lead back with a reverse layup on the next trip down court. Miller-McIntyre delivered the dagger with just under four minutes left when he rattled in a long 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down to make it 57-49.
Xavier didn't get closer than seven the rest of the way, and Wake Forest made five of eight free throws in the final two minutes to seal it.
Thomas drew a key charge that prolonged Xavier's untimely drought. Miller-McIntyre, considered the centerpiece of the Demon Deacons' highly regarded seven-man freshman class, had just his fourth double-figure game and first since Nov. 27 against Nebraska.
"I told them back in the summertime that they had the summer to be freshmen, and when they came back in the fall, they needed to be sophomores," Bzdelik said. "They needed to grow up and grow up fast, and I believe in them. They just need to believe in themselves that they can play at this level."
Miller-McIntyre helped the Demon Deacons claim their fourth three-game winning streak in two-plus seasons under Bzdelik. If they can find a way to knock off No. 1 Duke on Saturday in their ACC opener, they'll win four in a row for the first time since 2009-10, when Dino Gaudio was still in charge.
Christon, who entered averaging 13.4 points, finished with 14 on 3-of-11 shooting but was 8 of 10 from the free-throw line. Robinson finished with 10 points.
Taylor had 16 points and seven rebounds in the first half and scored 14 of Xavier's first 20 points, but managed just one shot in the second half while facing a steady stream of traps in the post.
"They were very well aware of where he was," Mack said.
After freshman Tyler Cavanaugh's 3 made it 42-31 with 15½ minutes left, Wake Forest managed just one basket during the 8½ minutes that followed, and that allowed Xavier to get back in the game. The Musketeers reeled off eight straight points during an 18-6 spurt and went up by one point on Robinson's long jumper with just under seven minutes left.
But they managed just two field goals the rest of the way.
Wake Forest took a 2-1 lead in the series that resumed after year's hiatus. It began in 2010 as a tribute to Skip Prosser, who took both schools to four NCAA tournaments apiece before his death in 2007 of a heart attack at age 56.