March 2, 2005
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Vytas Danelius made sure his senior season was perfect at home, getting 17 points and 11 rebounds Wednesday night to lead No. 4 Wake Forest to a 98-91 victory over Georgia Tech.
The Demon Deacons (25-4, 12-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) rallied from 11 points down in the second half to pull out the win and finish the season 16-0 at Lawrence Joel Coliseum.
The victory also kept them in contention for the ACC regular season crown. If Wake Forest wins Sunday’s finale at North Carolina State, and North Carolina loses one of its remaining two games, the Deacons win the title based on a tiebreaker.
Wake Forest needed a strong showing from its seniors to win their last home game.
Georgia Tech (16-10, 7-8) has been the Deacons’ No. 1 nemesis of late, winning two of the last three meetings, including a 73-66 victory here last season that snapped Wake Forest’s 24-game home winning streak.
The Yellow Jackets did it by confusing Wake Forest star Chris Paul while creating a myriad of problems for the Deacons’ trio of guards. They did it again early in this one, holding Justin Gray, Paul and senior Taron Downey to a combined 3-of-12 in the first half and making their defense seem non-existant.
But the guards snapped out of it in the second half, led by Downey who sparked an 18-9 run that put the Deacons in control.
Wake Forest then made eight of nine free throws in the final minute to lock up the win. The Demon Deacons took 46 free throws in the game, while Georgia Tech took 17. As the officials ran off the court, Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt chased after them screaming “Nice job, guys! Nice job, guys!”
Eric Williams scored 21 points for Wake Forest. Downey scored 13 of his 15 in the second half, including three 3-pointers that pulled the Deacons out of their double-digit deficit.
Paul finished with 17 points – his first game in double figures against the Yellow Jackets in four meetings – and Gray finished with 14.
The Deacons were horrible in the first half, shooting just 33 percent from the field and missing eight of 10 3-point attempts. Their guards were bad, forcing Williams and Danelius to carry too much of the load.
It opened up the perimeter to Elder, who scored 13 points in the first half, and gave Schenscher too many open looks under the basket as Georgia Tech took a 45-37 halftime lead.
Elder opened the second half with a 3-pointer. Gray then hit a small groove, answering with a 3 for Wake Forest and a layup, but he picked up his third foul shortly after the spurt and went to the bench. While he was gone, Bynum hit a 3 that pushed Georgia Tech’s lead 55-44 with 15:59 to play.
Downey took over on the court for Gray and helped settle the Deacons. He sparked a 9-0 run with a 3-pointer and Wake Forest scored on four straight possessions to close within 55-53.
But the Yellow Jackets grabbed the momentum back when Ra’ Sean Dickey blocked Jamaal Levy’s shot and Georgia Tech converted it into a dunk by Isma’il Muhammad. Jack and Anthony Morrow then hit consecutive 3s to push Tech’s lead back to 63-57.
Then Downey again turned it around for Wake Forest. His 3-pointer sparked an 18-9 run that gave the Deacons their first lead of the second half at 75-72 with 6:48 to play. Downey hit two 3s in the run and encouraged Paul to turn it up a notch.
AP Sports Writer