CHARLESTON, S.C. – Wake Forest made all 13 of its three-pointers in the first half, then scored 24 points in the paint in the second half on its way to a 103-81 win over UTEP on Thursday afternoon at TD Arena.
The Demon Deacons (3-0) knocked the Miners (1-1) into the consolation bracket of the Gildan Charleston Classic. UTEP will face Western Michigan, which lost 76-65 to defending NCAA champion Villanova earlier in the day, on Friday at 1:30 p.m.Mountain time. ESPN3 will have coverage.
“I thought Wake Forest played terrific, obviously,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “They shot the ball exceedingly well. We weren’t close to them on a lot of the shots and I thought they got started out with [Austin] Arians making back-to-back threes early. We knew he was a terrific shooter and we weren’t close to him. And then they just followed it up. [Bryant] Crawford shot it well, Dinos [Mitoglou] had a terrific half. We weren’t close to him and we knew he could shoot it. I thought we were very poor in defensive transition. You’ve got no chance to guard if you can’t guard the three-point line, which we did a very poor job of in this game.”
Wake Forest scored 20 points in the first four and a half minutes. UTEP fell behind 24-10 at the 13:46 mark. The Miners went on a 12-2 run to pull within four (26-22) on a dunk by Omega Harris with 10:49 on the clock. It was an eight-point game (39-31) at the six-minute mark before Wake ran off eight straight points to double the margin. The Miners trailed 63-44 at the break.
UTEP needed a quick start to the second half but didn’t get it, as Wake extended the lead to 25 points in the first four minutes. The Miners got the deficit under 20 twice at 83-65 and 85-67, but that was as close as they would get.
Wake Forest shot 13-for-20 from three in the first half as its leading scorer, 6-10 forward John Collins, didn’t attempt a field goal. Mitoglou made four threes, and four Demon Deacons (Arians, Crawford, Mitchell Wilbekin, Keyshawn Woods) made two apiece.
In the second half, the Demon Deacons pounded the ball inside and enjoyed the same amount of success. Collins scored 20 points, 9-for-10 from the field, matching UTEP’s Dominic Artis for game-high honors with 24 points.
Wake Forest shot 59.3 percent for the game (73.9 in the second half), outrebounded UTEP 33-24, and scored 24 points off 18 Miner turnovers.
“They’ve got a really nice team,” Floyd said. “I talked to a couple of coaches in the league who told me that they were going to be the most-improved team in the ACC this year. They thought they were picked way too low and they had a chance to make the biggest jump in the league. We certainly would believe that based on what we saw tonight.”
Artis shot 8-for-12 from the field, 3-for-5 from outside and 5-for-8 from the line, but he led the Miners with six turnovers. Harris added 16 points, and Matt Willms scored 13 with five blocked shots.
Encouraging signs for UTEP include Willms scoring 22 points and making 10-of-12 shots over 32 minutes in two games. Paul Thomas was 4-for-4 from the field on Thursday and has collected 16 rebounds and eight assists in two contests. Freshman Deon Barrett has put together a couple of productive outings, scoring 14 points with eight assists and only two turnovers in 39 minutes. Artis, Harris and Terry Winn are all proven performers. UTEP played most of Thursday’s game with Willms (20 minutes) and Winn (15 minutes) in foul trouble. The Miners will continue to work on shoring up their defense.
“We shot 60 percent in the first half and we’re down 19,” Floyd said. “I’ve always said great teams can shoot 35 percent and go win. We shoot 60 percent and we’re down 19, which tells you we don’t do a lot of things well. We turn it over too much, we don’t rebound it well enough, we don’t guard well enough. Great teams do those three things, and [Wake Forest] did those things better than us.”