NEW ORLEANS – Devin Thomas' dominance in the paint has Wake Forest off to a promising start in coach Danny Manning's maiden season with the Demon Deacons.
Thomas had 13 points and 12 rebounds for his second double-double in as many games, and Wake Forest pulled away in the second half for a 71-49 victory over Tulane on Monday night.
"We're happy, but this is expected; we are an ACC school and they are a Conference USA school," Thomas said, referring to Tulane by the league affiliation it had last season before moving to the American Athletic Conference.
Codi Miller-McIntyre added 12 points for the Demon Deacons (2-0), who quieted Tulane's home-opening crowd by outscoring the Green Wave by 17 during the second half.
Louis Dabney scored 17 points and Tre Drye grabbed 11 rebounds for Tulane, but Dabney was held to four points during the final 20 minutes.
"The second half I didn't think we played nearly as hard as we needed to play," Tulane coach Ed Conroy said. "That was really disappointing."
The Green Wave was competitive during the first half but ultimately done in by poor perimeter shooting, going 1 for 20 on 3-pointers. Tulane managed only three field goals in the second half.
"It was great defense by us," Thomas said. "We didn't let their guards get going. Just all around, the whole team played great basketball today."
For Thomas, a 6-foot-9 forward, the performance was a solid encore to his 25 points and 13 rebounds in an 80-69 victory over UNC-Asheville on Friday night.
Wake Forest controlled the inside, outscoring Tulane 44-24 in the paint and enjoying a 47-29 rebounding edge. The Demon Deacons grabbed 14 offensive boards, leading to 15 second-chance points.
After cutting a first-half deficit as large as 16 down to five at halftime, Tulane had a chance to cut Wake Forest's lead to a single point when Drye put up an open 3 from the right wing. The shot rimmed out, and Wake Forest quickly got the ball to Miller-McIntyre for a short jumper on the other end.
The basket ignited a 15-4 Demon Deacons run during which Miller-McIntyre added a mid-range jumper and layup, and Cornelius Hudson's dunk made it 47-32.
After seeing how Wake Forest struggled on the road last season, Miller-McIntyre was pleased to see his team maintain its composure and pull away.
"It's not just that we won. It was the way we won," Miller-McIntyre said. "We were together and we didn't lose our mind when they fought back."
It looked as if Tulane would get run out of its own building when Wake Forest used a 20-0 run to open a 22-6 lead. But Tulane had a 21-7 run of its own — including 13 straight points — to pull as close as 29-27 late in the half, prompting Manning to call timeout. Leonard then hit a 3 to put Wake Forest up 32-27 at halftime.
The margin of victory was Wake Forest's largest on the road since a 95-54 blowout of East Carolina on Dec. 22, 2008. The Demon Deacons went 1-9 on the road last season, defeating Virginia Tech.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons are 6-0 all-time against Tulane, including a 72-57 victory in Winston-Salem last December. ... Manning coached last season at Tulsa, which beat Tulane twice, including once in the Conference USA tournament on its way to a league title.
Tulane: Sophomore Kajon Mack returned to action after missing all of last season with a foot injury. He played 23 minutes, finishing with eight points and five rebounds. ... The game marked the beginning of a six-game home stand to open the season before a trip to Loyola-Chicago on Dec. 3.
Wake Forest: Visits Arkansas on Wednesday night.
Tulane: Host Mississippi Valley State on Thursday night.