Wake Forest beats UNC Asheville in Manning’s debut
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) Devin Thomas had 25 points and 13 rebounds and Wake Forest dominated inside to pull away late and beat UNC Asheville 80-69 Friday night to give new coach Danny Manning a victory in his debut.
Dinos Mitoglou added 17 points and eight rebounds to help offset 26 points from UNC Asheville’s Andrew Rowsey.
Manning, the former Kansas star and No. 1 NBA pick, replaced the fired Jeff Bzdelik in April. The former Tulsa coach was frustrated by his team’s 24 turnovers, but leaned on Thomas.
Rowsey kept UNC Asheville close thanks to a variety of leaners, fadeaways, scoop shots and 3-pointers. Last season’s Big South freshman of the year’s three free throws got the Bulldogs (0-1) within 49-47 with 11:26 left.
But Thomas then went to work, consistently getting to the free-throw line in a 13-2 spurt for Wake Forest (1-0) that saw UNC Asheville big men Giacomo Zilli and Jaleel Roberts foul out.
The Demon Deacons, who held a 49-25 rebounding edge, withstood a couple of late challenges to make Manning’s debut a successful one.
Sporting a tan suit, the 6-foot-10 Manning was active on the bench — and with his bench. The 2014 Conference USA coach of the year used 10 players in the first nine minutes, but all the changes led to a disjointed start.
Wake Forest had 10 turnovers in 12 minutes, but never trailed thanks to UNC Asheville’s 0 for 6 start from the field and Thomas’ dominance inside.
With guard Codi Miller-McIntyre on the bench with two early fouls, the Demon Deacons pounded it in low. The Bulldogs eventually double-teamed Thomas, but he was still able to muscle to the basket as Wake Forest built a 37-32 halftime lead.
Thomas hit his first five shots, and finished 7 of 9 from the field and 11 of 19 from the foul line.
Rowsey, who scored 20 points in the first half, struggled to get open shots in the last 10 minutes. He went 9 of 21 from the field for UNC Asheville, which shot 32 percent.
UNC Asheville: F Will Weeks (knee) and G Ahmad Thomas (leg) sat out. . The Bulldogs’ lone season-opening road win in 11 seasons came at Auburn in 2010. They lost to Kentucky last season.
Wake Forest: Bzdelik rarely smiled, but Manning grinned and high-fived Mitoglou after his first-half gaffe. Mitoglou stole the ball and went in for an uncontested dunk when the ball slipped out his hands and bounced off the bottom of the rim. Mitoglou, the only newcomer to start for Wake Forest, ran over to the bench and received encouragement from Manning.
UNC Asheville visits East Carolina on Sunday.
Wake Forest plays Monday at Tulane.