By Rob Daniels
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The UNCG Spartans eventually left the building, but as far as the Wake Forest Demon Deacons were concerned, they never went away.
UNCG entered Wednesday night's game winless and left with the same distinction. In between, it nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the program's history, absorbing a 69-67 defeat when it was unable to get off a last-second 3-pointer.
"I can't let this get us down," guard Brandon Evans said. "It lets us know we're going in the right direction. We're getting better. If we keep competing, we're gonna be pretty good."
The Spartans, who overcame a six-point halftime deficit, turned this into a tense, one-possession game and had a chance to tie after Kyle Randall hit a leaner while being fouled with 12.1 seconds to go to make it 68-67.
"I just tried to stick my head down, go to the basket and hope something good would happen," Randall said.
Randall missed the resulting free throw, but that almost worked to the Spartans' advantage.
When Wake's Travis McKie went 1-for-2 at the foul line, the Spartans had the ball with 9.5 ticks left and a chance to win the thing. Had Randall made his free throw, Wake would have almost certainly had the last shot.
Down two, the Spartans were not fixated on the game-winner, however. The intent was for a post player to set a screen at the top of the key to liberate Randall. From there, he was to go to the goal.
"Our defense was fine," Randall said. "We were going for the two and for the three only if it was the last option."
Ultimately, they couldn't get a chance at either. Wake center Ty Walker, the 7-footer who blocked four shots on the night, popped out in anticipation of the 3-pointer. Distracted, Randall lost his dribble and time expired before Korey Van Dussen could heave one.
"I wish we could have executed better when we had the ball with five seconds left," Randall said. "I wish I hadn't turned it over."
As regrets go, that one wasn't so bad for a team that was coming off exams and a 43-point loss at Maryland a week earlier that dropped the club to 0-8. The Spartans committed a season-low 11 turnovers, and the relatively successful offensive execution minimized the Deacons' transition opportunities. UNCG, which had allowed 81 or more points in all of its previous games, made Wake work for what it got.
The Deacs effectively won it on the glass, outrebounding the Spartans 41-28 to offset UNCG's plus-seven in turnover margin.
The Spartans were down six at the midway point of the second half and a national audience on ESPN may have presumed the visitors were en route to a lopsided defeat. Instead, the Spartans shocked Wake with an 8-0 run in 33 seconds, and they claimed a 55-53 lead when Van Dussen hit a 3-pointer from the left wing.
"I was proud of our guys because we got down a couple of times and each time, we made big plays to get back in it," coach Mike Dement said. "Earlier in the year, if we got down by five, we had a tendency to go down 10 or 12. This time, we fought back a couple of times and put ourselves in position to get something at the end."
Randall went 5-for-7 from the floor in a 15-point effort to lead four double-figure scorers for the Spartans. Van Dussen had 14, Aloysius Henry contributed a dozen and Evans finished with 11.
Henry, defended on this night by Walker and another 7-footer, Carson Desrosiers, has scored between 10 and 15 in all but one game, a four-point outing at East Carolina. The junior-college transfer was well known to Deacons coach Jeff Bzdelik, who was recruiting him for Colorado last spring. Henry's scheduled official visit to Boulder was canceled when Bzdelik took the Wake job.
The Spartans' schedule does not let up. They're at Clemson on Saturday.
"I thought we took a big step in playing an ACC team on the road," Dement said. "We played our best defensive game tonight."
Wake Forest 69, UNCG 67
RANDALL, Kyle 5-7 4-9 15; VAN DUSSEN, Korey 5-11 2-2 14; HENRY, Aloysius 5-11 2-3 12; EVANS, Brandon 3-11 3-4 11; COLE, Brian 2-2 0-0 5; BRACKETT, Aaron 2-6 0-0 4; WILLIAMS, David 1-4 2-3 4; SIMPSON, Trevis 1-5 0-0 2; HENEGAR, Cody 0-0 0-0 0; PARKER, Drew 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 24-59 13-21 67.
WAKE FOREST (6-4)
McKie,Travis 7-9 2-3 16; Terrell,J.T. 6-13 1-2 14; Stewart,Ari 3-5 5-6 12; Clark,Gary 3-7 2-5 9; Harris,C.J. 1-6 6-6 8; Mescheriakov,Nikita 3-5 1-2 7; Walker,Ty 1-1 0-3 2; Desrosiers,Carson 0-0 1-2 1; Tabb,Melvin 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 24-48 18-29 69.
UNCG.......................... 30 37 - 67
Wake Forest................... 36 33 - 69
3-point goals--UNCG 6-13 (EVANS, Brandon 2-6; VAN DUSSEN, Korey 2-4; RANDALL, Kyle 1-1; COLE, Brian 1-1; SIMPSON, Trevis 0-1), Wake Forest 3-12 (Terrell,J.T. 1-3; Stewart,Ari 1-2; Clark,Gary 1-3; Tabb,Melvin 0-1; Harris,C.J. 0-2; McKie,Travis 0-1). Fouled out--UNCG-None, Wake Forest-None. Rebounds--UNCG 28 (HENRY, Aloysius 5; EVANS, Brandon 5; BRACKETT, Aaron 5), Wake Forest 41 (McKie,Travis 14). Assists--UNCG 9 (RANDALL, Kyle 5), Wake Forest 13 (Harris,C.J. 4). Total fouls--UNCG 21, Wake Forest 17. Technical fouls--UNCG-WILLIAMS, David, Wake Forest-None. A-8340
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