ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — With an offense stuck in neutral, Wake Forest used its size advantage and turned up the defensive pressure late to pull out a 65-56 victory Thursday over Charleston in a first-round game of the Wooden Legacy.
The Demon Deacons got 14 points and 14 rebounds from 7-foot reserve center Olivier Sarr and another 10 points and 10 rebounds from 6-8 forward Isaiah Mucius to win for the fourth time in their past six games.
Torry Johnson had 13 points and Brandon Childress added 10, with six assists, as Wake Forest (4-2) earned its first victory in California since winning the 2008 version of the tournament, then known as the 76 Classic.
“We had to guys in Olivier and Isaiah that had a double-double and that’s big for us, cleaning up the glass,” Wake Forest coach Danny Manning said. “That’s something that we work on. Making sure we had contested shots and rebounding the basketball was the focus down the stretch.”
Zep Jasper scored 13 points and Grant Riller added 11 as Charleston (3-3) lost for the third time in its past four games.
Wake Forest shot just 19 of 53 (35.8%) from the field in the victory while Charleston was 21 of 55 (38.2%). The Demon Deacons ended up going 21 of 27 from the free-throw line, including 14 of 17 in the second half. Charleston was 7 of 14 from the line.
“That was the emphasis for us to drive the ball and I thought we drove it; we didn’t get the call,” Charleston coach Earl Grant said. “That’s life. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. It was plus-13 at the free-throw line in terms of the number of attempts they took and that’s a big number.”
Wake Forest scored 11 of its last 13 points from the free-throw line over the final 5:16 after going 1 of 8 from the field down the stretch.
It was just the fourth time in 46 games Wake Forest came away with a victory after shooting 35.8% or lower from the field. Two of those victories have come this season.
“There were a few shots we would like to take back, but a lot of those were good looks for us, we just didn’t knock them down,” Manning said.
Sarr was the exception field-goal-percentage wise. He was 4 of 6 from the field, and also went 9 of 9 from the field when scoring a career-best 21 points on Nov. 13 against UNC Asheville.
“Coming off the bench is bringing energy to the team and doing a lot of talking on defense,” Sarr said. “It was just being a presence in the paint.”
Wake Forest pushed a two-point lead at halftime to 10 points at 43-34 with 14:25 remaining, and the Demon Deacons held on from there, despite shooting just 38.5% from the field in the second half.
Charleston cut its deficit to 56-53 on a 3-pointer by Jasper with 3:29 remaining, before Sarr scored four points in a 7-0 run for Wake Forest to push the lead back to 10 at 63-53 with 1:16 remaining.
Brevin Galloway and Jaylen McManus scored 10 points each for Charleston. The Cougars lost for just the third time in their last 25 games when holding a team to 35.8% shooting or worse.
Wake Forest coach Danny Manning became the first person to win the John R. Wooden Award as a player, while also coaching in the Wooden Legacy. Said Manning: “That’s pretty cool. I was fortunate to win that award and to be a part of this event with such a historic figurehead, that’s pretty cool.”
Charleston is now 0-4 against Wake Forest all-time and will face a Providence program that has defeated the Cougars twice in two meetings. Thursday’s game was just the second-ever appearance for Charleston in California after the program also played in the 2013 Wooden Legacy.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons will take on Long Beach State on Friday in the winners’ bracket.
Charleston: The Cougars will take on Providence in the consolation bracket.