March 8, 2002
By DAVID DROSCHAK
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Wake Forest took its first week out of the Top 25 in three months personally.
Josh Howard scored 23 points and Darius Songaila added 22 as the Demon Deacons shot 64 percent in the first half then held off Georgia Tech 92-83 in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Friday night.
Skip Prosser won his ACC tourney coaching debut as third-seeded Wake Forest (20-11) advanced to play No. 2 seed Duke, a 60-48 winner over North Carolina.
But like most games the last month for Prosser and the league’s most experienced team, it didn’t come easy.
The Demon Deacons built a 17-point halftime lead only to watch a 19-6 opening second-half run by Georgia Tech make things interesting over the final 10 minutes as Wake Forest got into serious foul trouble.
The Yellow Jackets got within four three times. Then, after Wake Forest pushed the lead to 11 with 5:07 left, closed to 81-78 on a 3-pointer by Tony Akins, who finished with 22 points.
But Songaila scored in the lane with 1:27 left and Craig Dawson added a fastbreak layup from Howard 22 seconds later to help close the deal.
It’s the seventh time in the last 10 seasons the Demon Deacons have won at least 20 games. The previous six were under former coach Dave Odom.
The sixth-seeded Yellow Jackets (15-16) started the ACC season 0-7, but had the greatest turnaround in league history by winning seven of its last nine and came into the postseason with a five-game winning streak.
But the Demon Deacons were hot out of the gate, making 15 of their first 21 shots to jump on top early.
Broderick Hicks, Songaila, Howard and Taron Downey each hit 3-pointers during a 24-7 run that enabled the Demon Deacons to take control midway through the opening half.
Meanwhile, the best 3-point shooting team in the ACC couldn’t buy a basket from the outside, missing 10 of its first 11 attempts beyond the arc.
B.J. Elder, who scored 25 points in Georgia Tech’s 90-77 win against Wake Forest nine days ago, managed just 11 on Friday. The freshman got into early foul trouble.
The loss dropped Georgia Tech to 1-6 in its last seven ACC tournament games.
Wake Forest did lose reserve Steve Lepore to a left knee injury midway through the first half. He left the game and returned with 14:29 left in the second period with a knee brace and on crutches. The junior transfer from Northwestern averages 4.7 points and had a season-high 23 minutes against Cincinnati on Feb. 9.