WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Olivier Sarr’s Wake Forest teammates did most of the work against UNC Asheville’s trapping defense Wednesday night. But the 7-footer was perfect when finishing the job in the Demon Deacons’ 98-79 victory over UNC Asheville.
OK, almost perfect.
Sarr came off the bench to score 21 points, shooting 9-for-9 from the field – most on dunks or layups after the Deacons broke through defensive pressure – and grabbed eight rebounds. After the game, Sarr’s only gripe was that he missed one of his four foul attempts.
“(Asheville) was pressuring the ball a lot, and we found a way to get the ball inside,” said Sarr, who started Wake’s first two games. “They found me a lot.”
“Our guys did a really good job of finding him,” said Wake Forest coach Danny Manning.
Wake’s Chaundee Brown scored a game-high 23 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field, and 11 of 11 accuracy from the foul line. Brown also had a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Deacons (2-1) shot 70.2 percent from the field and made 28 of 40 foul opportunities, yet they found themselves tied at 72 with 9:47 to play against the smaller Bulldogs (1-2), who are coming off a 5-23 season. Wake committed 17 turnovers.
Wake pulled away with a game-ending 13-1 run, including a flurry of three baskets by Sarr, who came off the bench after starting the team’s first two games.
Asheville coach Mike Morrell said the 30 fouls called against his team – guard Lavar Batts fouled out and four Bulldogs finished with four fouls – prevented his team from maintaining its tenacious pressure down the stretch.
“We were not able to be as aggressive as we would have liked,” Morrell said. “I thought they (the Deacons) were really good the last five minutes of the game.”
Trailing by 14 in the first half, Asheville used its trapping defense to scrap back into the game despite Wake’s sizzling shooting and 35-20 rebounding edge. The Bulldogs committed only 11 turnovers in a whistle-plagued game with 53 fouls and 70 free-throw attempts.
Tajion Jones led Asheville with 22 points. DeVon Baker scored 17, including the spinning layup midway through the second half that tied the game for the only time. Asheville never led.
Brandon Childress, who fouled out with 17 points and nine assists, responded to Baker’s tying basket with a quick score that put Wake ahead for good. The Deacons had 23 assists.
The Deacons made their first eight shots on their first eight possessions to race an early 10-point lead. They extended the lead to 37-23 after Sarr’s dunk completed a four-point possession following a flagrant foul.
UNCA: The Bulldogs fell short in their bid for a first-ever triumph in nine games against the Deacons. But with a win over The Citadel and respectable losses to Tennessee and Wake Forest, the team appears on course to improve upon last season’s 5-23 record.
Wake Forest: Manning was pleased with his team’s shooting, but he had to be scratching his head that it didn’t prevent Asheville from rallying from a 14-point lead to tie midway through the second half.
Wake Forest shot 70 percent from the field in both halves for the first time in school history.
UNCA: The Bulldogs committed only 11 turnovers, but they were outrebounded 35-20.
Wake Forest: The Deacons’ 70.2-percent shooting percentage was the second-best in school history (they shot 73 percent against Fairleigh Dickinson in 1979). They also had 23 assists.
UNCA: The Bulldogs return home to take on regional Division III (non-scholarship) rival Brevard.
Wake Forest: The Deacons face a dangerous road game against in-state rival Charlotte.