WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP)—Freshman Ishmael Smith had 17 points and nine assists Tuesday night to lead Wake Forest past Vanderbilt 88-78.
Fellow rookie Jamie Skeen added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Demon Deacons (4-0), who took a double-digit lead late in the first half and stayed in control the rest of the way.
Shan Foster scored 23 points for the Commodores (0-2), who hung around but struggled to get the defensive stops they needed to get back in the game.
Most of that difficulty started with Smith, a 5-foot-11 freshman from Concord with impressive baseline-to-baseline speed. He provided the perfect floor leadership for coach Skip Prosser’s up-tempo attack, repeatedly attacking the rim for easy baskets or to create opportunities for teammates. Behind Smith, the Demon Deacons shot 48 percent and finished with 17 fast-break points.
The Demon Deacons led by as many as 14 points in the game, with the Commodores getting no closer than seven points after the break and getting in foul trouble early.
Senior Michael Drum added 13 points and nine rebounds, while senior Kyle Visser and freshman L.D. Williams each had 12 points in a balanced scoring night for Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons also took a 45-36 edge on the boards.
Vanderbilt jumped to an early six-point lead before Wake Forest charged ahead, getting seven straight points from Williams to take a 36-27 lead with 3:55 left in the half.
Then came a one-man show from Smith, including a stretch in which he assisted on three straight scores, then hit two free throws and a driving layup to push the Demon Deacons’ lead to 47-35 with 1:18 left in the half.
He also had back-to-back baskets, blowing by Alex Gordon for a layup and hitting a floater in the paint, that answered scores from the Commodores and maintained a double-digit lead for the Demon Deacons midway through the second half.
Skeen also turned in a strong performance, scoring off a no-look feed from Visser inside then returning the favor by finding Visser for a dunk on the next play for a 75-61 lead with 7:19 left. Then, when the Commodores closed to within 75-68 with 5 1/2 minutes left, Skeen knocked down a big 3-pointer from the right corner to push the lead back to 10.
The Commodores got no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Foster turned in a strong bounceback performance from the opening loss to Georgetown. The preseason all-Southeastern Conference first-team pick managed just two points on 0-for-5 shooting against the Hoyas, but went 8-for-17 and hit three 3s against the Demon Deacons.