Wake Forest 56, N.C.-Wilmington 52
WINSTON-SALEM (AP) _ Tony Rutland scored 20 points and Wake Forest overcame 36 percent shooting to beat North Carolina-Wilmington 56-52 Thursday night in the first round of the NIT.
Robert O’Kelley, the Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the year, added 19 for the Demon Deacons (16-13), who will play host to Vanderbilt in the second round on Tuesday.
Mark Byington scored 18 to lead the Seahawks (20-11), who were playing in their first-ever postseason game.
The Deacons led 28-27 before O’Kelley sparked a 12-3 Wake Forest run with a 3-pointer from the right wing with 11:15 to go. His driving layup with 6:28 remaining gave Wake its biggest lead at 40-30.
But the Seahawks mounted an 8-1 run of their own over the next three minutes and trimmed the lead to 41-38 on a baseline jumper by Stan Simmons with 3:40 remaining.
O’Kelley hit two 3-pointers from the top of the key over the final 2 1/2 minutes to keep the Demon Deacons ahead.
The Seahawks weren’t through, though, cutting the lead to three with 18.3 seconds left on a 3-pointer by Byington. But they got no closer. Wake Forest hit all six of its free throws in the final 46.3 seconds to seal the win.
The Seahawks shot only 35 percent from the field and were outrebounded 44-23.
After scoring on their first four possessions of the first half, Wake Forest went without a point for the next eight minutes.
The Seahawks had offensive problems of their own in the first half and could never take the lead. Wilmington committed only two turnovers but made only 7 of 24 shots (29 percent) and got outrebounded 21-11 for the half.