Travis McKie’s strong play helped lead Wake Forest back from a halftime deficit and give the NCAA Division 1 power an 88-80 victory over host Ryerson in men’s exhibition basketball on Saturday.
The Demon Deacons were able to capitalize on frequent Rams turnovers in the third quarter, outscoring Ryerson 32 to 16 in the frame.
McKie, a 6-7 forward, was a threat inside and out, getting steals, leaking out on the fast break and shooting from all over the court. The junior from Richmond, VA. finished with a game-high 26 points and five rebounds.
“We started off a little slow, it’s way too cold in here for a basketball game,” said McKie, following the match.
“We knew they were good. They came out and hit us in the mouth a bit in the first half, but we responded in the second half, and you’ve just got to continue to fight.”
First-year Wake Forest guard Codi McIntyre ran mouth-first into Rams forward Yannick Walcott in the second quarter, but went on to score 16 points and grab a team-high nine rebounds.
After the game he talked through a bruised lip and stitches befitting of the former Maple Leaf Gardens.
“I didn’t think it was going to be easy, but I didn’t think it was going to be that hard,” said McIntyre, who also recognized the talent of the Rams’ guards.
Strong back court play by Aaron Best and Jahmal Jones kept Ryerson close to an aggressive Wake Forest team.
Jones, out of Mississauga, scored 20 points and played a terrific all-around game by grabbing six rebounds, dishing the ball for eight assists and playing tough defence resulting in four steals.
Best, a member of the OUA East all-rookie team last season, showed his ability to play against top-level competition and finished tied for the game-high with 26 points.
“Knowing their history as a program at Wake Forest is a very rich one, and for us to be a school that’s on the rise, to be able to compete with one of the top-level teams in the NCAA says a lot about our program,” said Best.
Ryerson head coach Roy Rana believes the stellar play of the Rams guards kept them in the game and had plenty of praise for the way both Best and Jones played.
“I think we have one of the best backcourts in the country,” said Rana. “You could see it. I mean, we’re playing against an ACC team and our guards certainly don’t look out of place.”
Freshman 6-9 forward Tyler Cavanaugh added 14 points for Wake Forest and 6-3 guard Chase Fischer chipped in ten of his own.
Ryerson also received a significant contribution from Quebec-native Bjorn Michaelsen who scored 12 points and pulled in a team-high nine rebounds.
At the start of the second half Michaelsen hit the court hard and appeared injured, but after speaking with training staff and sitting on the bench a little while, he was able to shake it off.
The Rams were able to capitalize on the inexperience of a young Wake Forest squad that head coach Jeff Bzdelik says learned plenty on their trip to Canada, having faced Brock the previous night.
“We have a young team, seven freshmen, and they threw a lot at us with zones and things we haven’t even covered,” said Bzdelik. “I was on the floor here trying to coach them on the fly, but it’s just a great experience for us.”
Wake Forest will be back in action Nov. 2 when it hosts Florida’s Rollins College.
Ryerson will continue its exhibition schedule against NCAA opponents when they play the University of Detroit next Saturday.