February 25, 2004 - by
FSU Unable To Hold Off No. 11 Wake Forest

Box Score

Associated Press Writer

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Justin Gray felt the frustration building.

The sophomore had missed his first three 3-pointers of the second half and picked up his fourth foul with 12:40 left. Wake Forest kept turning the ball over and Florida State seemed as though it couldn’t miss.

At one point, coach Skip Prosser said he saw tears in Gray’s eyes on the bench.

“I was so frustrated one time I about punted the ball,” Gray said.

But Gray came through, scoring a career-high 31 points – including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:22 left in overtime – and the 11th-ranked Demon Deacons rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat Florida State 90-87 on Wednesday night.

Gray went 10-for-21 from the field and drained two 3s in the overtime for the Demon Deacons (18-6, 8-5 Atlantic Coast Conference), who won their fifth straight game and avenged last month’s loss to the Seminoles.

Chris Paul added 21 points, six rebounds and eight assists for Wake Forest, while Taron Downey had 17 points.

The win keeps the Demon Deacons in third place in the ACC, which has five teams ranked in this week’s Top 25.

“While it wasn’t pretty, it’s an ACC win,” Prosser said. “And those are very, very, very hard to come by.”

Tim Pickett scored 16 of his 23 points in the first half for the Seminoles (18-10, 6-8), who have lost four of six. Florida State has lost 23 straight road games in conference play, extending a streak that began in March 2001.

Wake Forest barely avoided being the host that allowed the Seminoles to end that drought. The Demon Deacons fell behind early and trailed 60-45 on a 3 from Pickett with 11:50 to play.

They went to a seldom-used fullcourt press to slow the Seminoles, who shot 8-for-22 in the second half. That helped fuel 15 points off turnovers after halftime.

“Sometimes it’s not an adjustment as much as it is a realization on the part of our kids that we need to get stops,” Prosser said.

The Demon Deacons closed the second half with a 30-15 run, including nine straight points at the end of regulation. Gray scored the last three of those points, hitting a spinning layup to cut the deficit to 75-74 with 1:40 left.

He then hit the tying free throw 21 seconds later to send it to overtime tied at 75.

Once there, he made the biggest shot of the night. After knocking down a 3 on Wake Forest’s third possession, he took a feed from Downey and drained a 3 from the left wing for an 86-83 lead.

The Demon Deacons never trailed again, getting a slam from Eric Williams off a feed from Paul just before the shot clock expired for an 88-85 lead with 15 seconds left. Nate Johnson’s driving layup cut it to one with 4.7 seconds left, but the Demon Deacons pushed the lead back to three with two free throws by Paul with 4.3 seconds left.

Von Wafer’s desperation 30-footer at the horn hit the front of the rim, giving the Demon Deacons the comeback win despite 20 turnovers.

The Seminoles seemed to have the game in hand, leading 75-68 with just under 3 minutes left. But they came apart with a series of late blunders, committing turnovers on their last six possessions against Wake Forest’s pressure.

One was a 5-second call on an inbounds pass after a timeout. On another, Pickett traveled when Johnson bumped him while trying to hand the ball off behind the arc with 2:19 to go.

“It hurts in a big way,” Pickett said. “It’s the most painful loss I’ve had this year. We played extremely well, but at the end we kind of broke down.”

Florida State hasn’t won an ACC road game since beating Clemson 75-63 on March 3, 2001.

“We lost our composure and made mistakes at the end,” Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said. “They increased the defensive pressure and put us in position to make plays, and we came up short.”

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