ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands — Wake Forest waited until the last minute literally to take its first lead of the game, making its flight home from the Paradise Jam a happy one.
Travis McKies dunk off a pass from C.J. Harris put the Demon Deacons in front with 18 seconds left, and they held on for a 74-71 victory over Mercer on Monday.
McKie had 23 points and matched a career high with 15 rebounds as Wake Forest (2-2) earned its only win in three games in the tournament.
You definitely want to come here and leave with a win, said McKie, a junior forward.
Wake trailed by 10 after Jibri Bryan hit a 3-pointer for Mercer (2-3) with 10:34 remaining. But the Demon Deacons chipped away until finally taking the lead on McKies dunk.
C.J. came off the ball screen; he saw me, McKie said. I didnt want to leave any chance, so I dunked it to make sure it went in.
Mercer turned the ball over and Chase Fischer hit a pair of free throws with 4.4 second left. The Bears got a good look for a potential tying 3-pointer, but Jakob Gollons shot fell short.
This was a hard-fought game, Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said. Both teams wanted desperately to win. Both teams played at a very high level. We were able to execute down the stretch, make timely shots and get a timely stop.
The Demon Deacons lost their first two games of the tournament to No. 21 Connecticut and Iona, the latter a 94-68 blowout in which they trailed 48-11 at one point in the first half.
With a young team, they were so exhausted emotionally after the UConn game, where we played extremely hard, Bzdelik said. We came out flat against an Iona team that hit nine straight shots and really sent us reeling. It took us until halftime to settle our youngsters down and get our minds back, to be quite frank.
Harris added 15 points and Fischer had 11 for Wake. Bryan led Mercer with 14 points, Gollon added 12 and Bud Thomas 10.