RALEIGH — Wake Forest avoided the embarrassment of another 36-point loss to N.C. State on Saturday.
The Demon Deacons even had some nice moments in the RBC Center -- just not enough of them to avoid an 87-76 loss, its fifth straight to the Wolfpack.
Twice, Wake Forest fought back from decent-sized deficits. The Deacs showed a level of fortitude that had been missing, including the previous one against the Wolfpack, a 76-40 blowout Jan. 14.
Guard C.J. Harris described this game as a boxing match. Punches in the form of runs were exchanged.
"They just had one more than us," said Harris, who led Wake Forest with 21 points in 38 minutes. "We knew if we would have came out (in the second half) with emotion, we could cut the lead down."
But the Demon Deacons couldn't withstand the third surge from N.C. State.
After tying the game at 50-50 with 13:30 left, the Deacons suffered breakdowns on both ends of the court, resulting in their demise.
Turnovers and quick shots on offense translated into fastbreak points for N.C. State. On defense, the Deacons gave space to the Wolfpack's best shooters in Scott Wood and C.J. Williams.
"It seemed like they had 20 points in transition," Harris said. "That really changed the whole ball game, and Wood did a great job of knocking down shots."
For Wake Forest, there were distinct differences in the two games.
In the first meeting, guard Travis McKie finished with more turnovers than points. This time McKie was the Deacs' second-best option on offense. In stretches, Wake Forest demonstrated good ball movement and a willingness to attack the glass for rebounds.
"The last time we played N.C. State, we did not respect them," Wake coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "We didn't compete."
Instead of letting the Wolfpack's 11-point halftime lead grow, as in their previous matchup, the Demon Deacons were methodical in whittling down N.C. State's lead to tie the game.
"They played much better," N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said of the Demon Deacons. "I told our guys to expect that."
Did Wake Forest compete, show emotion and shoot the ball better? Yes.
Breakdowns in transition defense, however, continue to plague Bzdelik's team.
Harris came into the RBC Center thinking about vengeance for a 36-point loss. Though he acknowledged the Demon Deacons' effort, he left the arena unsatisfied.
"I'm not into moral victories," he said.