WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Travis McKie looked like he had finally seen enough of Wake Forest's losing streak.
McKie had 23 points and 11 rebounds, and sparked the second-half run that helped the Demon Deacons beat Georgia Tech 59-50 on Wednesday night.
McKie scored the first seven points of an 11-0 run, which put Wake Forest (12-14, 3-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) ahead for good and ultimately snapped a six-game losing streak.
"I just wanted to make the play," McKie said. "I know we came out slow in the second half and I think our offense was a little slow at that point, so I think I just took it upon myself to be aggressive and make plays. And the ball went in the basket."
McKie came in averaging around 16 points, so his output against the Yellow Jackets (9-16, 2-9) wasn't an oddity. What made it different was when his key flurry came and how it sparked the Demon Deacons to the type of run they haven't managed often this season.
Very little had gone right for the Demon Deacons since beating Virginia Tech 58-55 at home on Jan. 7. They had lost nine of 10 since, with the past six losses coming by an average margin of nearly 18 points. And in this one, they watched a 24-17 halftime lead vanish when the Yellow Jackets ran off 10 straight points out of the break.
But, trailing 41-38 with 7 minutes left, the Demon Deacons reversed their recent misery behind McKie.
First the 6-foot-7 sophomore hit a turnaround jumper that barely beat the shot clock. Then he took a pass from freshman Chase Fischer and knocked down the go-ahead 3-pointer, followed by a pair of free throws with 5:09 left that gave the Demon Deacons a 45-41 lead.
"I thought that he willed us in a lot of ways," Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "When we needed some timely shots, he hit them."
Tony Chennault and 7-footer Ty Walker followed McKie's lead. Chennault (12 points, eight rebounds) followed with a steal and a layup, while Walker hit a jumper from beyond the foul line to beat the shot clock for his only basket to cap the spurt and make it 49-41 with 2:47 left.
Georgia Tech got no closer than four points in a matchup of the bottom two teams in the ACC standings.
"We were very aggressive at the 5-minute mark," Walker said. "Coming out there and finishing strong like that, withstanding Georgia Tech's run, it was definitely (welcome) for us."
Wake Forest won despite shooting 33 percent, including 4 for 20 from 3-point range. In addition, top scorer C.J. Harris managed just eight points on 2-for-8 shooting to snap his run of 24 straight games with double-figure scoring totals. But the Demon Deacons finished with a 42-32 rebounding advantage and a 17-11 edge in second-chance points. They also hit all 14 free throws in the second half and finished 19-for-20 from the game.
The rebounding totals were particularly frustrating for first-year Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory.
"They killed us on the glass," Gregory said. "For us to be good, we have to rebound well. And so, am I happy with our initial defense? Yeah, because it was pretty darn good. We forced tough shots. We forced three or four shot-clock violations. ... (But) you have to finish it with defensive rebounds."
Wake Forest juggled its starting lineup, giving Fischer his second start in a three-guard lineup that bumped Walker to the bench and had 6-8 forward Nikita Mescheriakov as its tallest player. The new-look Demon Deacons didn't get off to a good start, missing nine of their first 10 shots with the Yellow Jackets blocking four in the first 4½ minutes.
Things didn't get notably better, either. But they stayed with a zone defense that Gregory said "kind of lulled us to sleep a little bit" and led to a lethargic performance by Georgia Tech's offense, which shot just 37 percent.
Glen Rice Jr. scored 12 points while Daniel Miller and Brandon Reed each added 11 for the Yellow Jackets, who have lost eight of nine and 12 of 14.
"It's probably the fourth time this year in winning time — the last eight or nine minutes of a close game — the other team had the toughest player on the court that made big plays," Gregory said of McKie. "We have yet to have that happen for us."