WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Travis McKie matched a career high with 23 points -- including six on one critical trip downcourt -- to lead Wake Forest past mistake-prone Georgia Southern 81-73 on Wednesday night.
C.J. Harris added 20 points and Tony Chennault finished with 14 for the Demon Deacons (2-0). They shot nearly 42.9 percent (24 of 56), overcame their 15 turnovers by forcing the Eagles into 22 miscues and held off Georgia Southern's comeback bid.
Jelani Hewitt finished with 18 points and five 3-pointers to lead Georgia Southern (0-2). Despite 49.1 percent (28 of 57) shooting, the Eagles fell to 8-35 against current Atlantic Coast Conference teams and were denied their first victory over a power-conference team since 1992.
Hewitt hit 3-pointers 25 seconds apart to pull Georgia Southern to 50-45 with 9:17 left before McKie single-handedly gave the Demon Deacons enough breathing room.
He took a feed from Chennault on a fast break, was intentionally fouled by Cameron Baskerville while going up for a layup, and hit two free throws with 7:43 left. Wake Forest retained possession because of the foul, and McKie drew contact in the lane roughly 30 seconds later, knocking down two more free throws to make it 56-45.
Georgia Southern didn't get closer than seven the rest of the way. The Demon Deacons sealed it by making 8 of 10 free throws in the final 1:01.
Freshman Chase Fischer finished with 13 points while McKie equaled the 23 points he scored against Boston College last March for Wake Forest.
The Demon Deacons were sloppy at times but overall took an encouraging step forward, after a miserable 2010-11 season marked by a humiliating string of losses to mid- and low-major programs and 15 ACC defeats. Before last year, Wake Forest had opened at least 2-0 every season since 1998.
Eric Ferguson finished with 18 points, Willie Powers III had 13 and Ben Drayton III added 12 for the Eagles, who are coming off an equally rough season in which they went 1-17 in the Southern Conference.
They lost their 20th straight game played in the state of North Carolina -- they haven't won here since beating Elon in 2007.
Wake Forest led 34-23 at the end of a messy first half in which the teams combined for 23 turnovers. The Demon Deacons took the lead for good during a 17-3 run that was keyed by 3-pointers from Chase Fischer, Harris and McKie.
Georgia Southern, meanwhile, had 10 turnovers in the first nine minutes and finished the half with more giveaways (13) than field goals (nine).