WINSTON-SALEM — Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik expected his veterans would be able to shoulder a lot of the load in the Deacons season opener against Radford.
Yet some of Wake Forests newcomers also stepped up Friday night during the Deacons 79-67 victory over the Highlanders.
C.J. Harris, Wake Forests lone senior, scored 19 points to lead six players in double figures for the Deacons, who had to hold off a pesky Radford squad to win their 19th consecutive season opener.
Travis McKie and Chase Fischer added 11 points each, and three freshmen Codi Miller-McIntyre, Devin Thomas and Arnaud Adala Moto scored 10 apiece for Wake Forest (1-0), which shot 63.6 percent from the field (28 of 44) and hit 20 of 30 free throws.
It was a hard-fought win, but we expected that, said Bzdelik, who began his third season as the Deacons coach. We did some really good things, and some things that obviously we have to work on.
R.J. Price scored 16 points, Kion Brown added 14 and Blake Smith and Javonte Green had 12 points each for the Highlanders (0-1), who twice fought back from double-digit deficits.
Radford took advantage of 18 Wake Forest turnovers, which led to 22 points. The Highlanders also had an 18-7 edge in offensive rebounds, leading to 14 second-chance points, as they gave the Demon Deacons all they could handle, especially in the first half.
Yielding 18 offensive rebounds and turning the ball over 18 times is certainly not going to win you a lot of basketball games, Bzdelik said. We obviously need to improve in those two areas. But to shoot the percentage that we did, and have six players in double digits, we certainly had some good efforts out there.
The Highlanders took the lead three times in the first 20 minutes, the last at 14-13 on Greens layup with 11:48 remaining. However, Wake Forest regained the lead for good thanks to Fischer, who came through with key baskets in the final stages of the half.
Fischer hit a jumper and 3-pointer in a 46-second span to put the Deacons back on top. He made another 3 at the 5:15 mark after Radford had pulled within 28-27, then dropped in a third 3-pointer during a 9-0 run that gave Wake Forest a 42-31 lead with 1:57 remaining.
The Highlanders managed to cut the Deacons lead to seven points on layups by Lucas Dyer and Price, but Thomas tip-in off a Harris miss in the final second put Wake Forest up 44-35 at halftime.
The Deacons twice pushed their lead back into double digits early in the second half, the last at 50-40 on McKies jumper with 15:40 left. But Radford whittled away at Wake Forests lead, pulling within three points three times.
A pair of free throws by Brown with 1:53 remaining cut the Deacons lead to 70-67. But Radford soon ran out of gas, with McKie scoring five points in a game-ending 9-0 run for Wake Forest.