By BRENT KALLESTAD
Associated Press Writer
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.– Vytas Danelius wanted to be sure Wake Forest took advantage of its opportunities.
“You don’t want to let any opponent slip away,” said Danelius, who scored three of his game-high 17 points in the final 26 seconds to help the 12th-ranked Demon Deacons to a 60-56 victory over Florida State on Wednesday night. “They kept coming back. It wasn’t easy.”
Freshman Justin Gray helped out with four free throws over the final 36 seconds.
“Me and Vytas were thinking that to win games you’ve got to make free throws,” Gray said. “Even though I hadn’t shot a free throw the whole game, I felt confident.”
Wake Forest (20-4, 10-3) can win the school’s first outright regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference title since 1962 with wins in its final three games. The Deacons have Clemson and North Carolina at home before finishing the schedule at North Carolina State on March 8.
“The farther you go, the more difficult it is,” said Danelius, who was 7-of-11 from the field and had nine rebounds. “Every game is so important.”
ACC scoring leader Josh Howard added 14 points for Wake Forest, while Taron Downey and Gray each had 12.
“We had 20 turnovers and shot less then 40 percent,” said Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser, marveling at being able to get the win despite a less than sterling showing. “Our kids found a way. It’s our fourth win on the road in this league.”
Florida State (12-13, 3-11) would need to win at home Saturday over slumping Virginia and then at Duke on March 6 to finish with a winning record and a chance at an NIT bid in coach Leonard Hamilton’s first year. The Seminoles, who have lost five straight to Wake Forest, began the season 9-3.
“This was a game that was in our grasp, but we couldn’t get it done,” Hamilton said. “Coming up with the big plays is an area we’re not good at yet.”
Tim Pickett was the only Florida State player in double figures with 16 points, but he suffered a miserable shooting night, going 5-of-20.
Florida State, which has been plagued by poor shooting most of the season, shot 29.4 percent for the game while Wake Forest made 39.6 percent and enjoyed a 44-32 rebound advantage led by Jamaal Levy’s 12 rebounds.
“We had four layups and four open jumpers we couldn’t complete,” Hamilton said. “They made difficult shots.”
Wake Forest, which started a freshman and three sophomores along with Howard, a senior, led 31-29 at halftime.