No. 6 Wake Forest Cruises Past Virginia, 90-68
Feb. 27, 2005
By JENNA FRYER
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) - Chris Paul wants the officials to take notice of the elbows being thrown his way. His Wake Forest teammates want him to get over it.
Paul got pushed around and shoved to the court, but still managed to score 17 points as the sixth-ranked Demon Deacons stayed in contention for the Atlantic Coast Conference title with a 90-68 victory over Virginia on Sunday.
After, he said it's time the officials stop the physical play.
"I don't know what it is, but it seems like every game someone is trying to go after me," Paul said. "I get all these cheap shots, and then refs tell me to stop what I am doing. It sort of gets old."
Paul had numerous early scuffles with Virginia freshman Sean Singletary, and was knocked to the court on a hard shove from behind by Elton Brown after a whistle.
If the Deacons (24-4, 11-3) are going to get anywhere this season, they need Paul to deal with it.
"That happens to anybody's best player. People want to get in your head," said Justin Gray, who led the Deacons with 20 points.
"I just tell him to calm down, don't get caught up in it and keep your composure. This game he did."
Gray even accused Paul of an Academy Award-winning performance when Brown knocked him to floor. Paul lay face down on the court, then banged his fists in anger before getting up.
When Brown wasn't called for a technical foul, Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser erupted on the sidelines. Twice told to calm down by the officials, Prosser was given a technical - his first of the season - with 6:19 left in the half.
"He got knocked down, but that was some good acting there," Gray said.
The Deacons needed Paul to stay focused because the win pulled them one-half game behind No. 2 North Carolina, which played at Maryland on Sunday night, for first place in the league.
But Wake Forest holds the tiebreaker over Carolina, and can earn the top seed in the ACC tournament by winning its final two games and getting one loss from the Tar Heels.
"We want the No. 1 seed, in the NCAA's and the ACC tournament," Gray said. "We are going for it, but we know we need some help."
They emptied their bench late in the game and were chastised by the officials for raucously cheering when junior John Buck dunked with just seconds to go.
"That was the most heralded play of the game," Paul declared.
Devin Smith scored 22 points for Virginia (13-12, 4-10), while J.R. Reynolds and T.J. Bannister each had 15.
The game opened with early elbows from Singletary, causing Paul to stop at one point and stand in the lane, hands on his hips and a scowl on his face, as he glared in the direction of the officials.
The tension dates to their Jan. 27 meeting, which was marked by physical play the entire game and ended with Paul getting knocked to the floor late on a hard foul.
Paul got his revenge on the floor by twice freezing Singletary as he blew by him for a layup. He also embarrassed Smith, when standing still just past the midcourt line, he snatched the ball away from him and raced ahead for his first dunk of the season.
He helped the Deacons take a 44-31 halftime lead and the makings of a runaway win.
But Virginia came out firing in the second half and sliced Wake Forest's lead to 46-41.
Wake Forest pulled it together behind senior Taron Downey, who ran the court and helped the Deacons pull away.
"That team has a chance to get to the Final Four and win a national championship," Virginia coach Pete Gillen said. "We couldn't stop them, they just wore us down."
Singletary left with 14:48 to play when he injured his knee as he and Gray tangled and fell to the court. Singletary was called for a foul on the play, but as he was helped off the court, he shot a nasty glare in Gray's direction.
Singletary, who averages 10.3 points and 4.0 assists a game, returned with 11:25 left and quickly made a 3-pointer. But he was clearly playing in pain - Paul yelled over to Wake Forest's bench "Singletary can barely walk" when the Deacons tried to give Paul a rest - and Singletary fouled out with 10:56 to play.
He finished with seven points and no assists.
"He's a young player playing against maybe the best point guard in the country," Gillen said. "He's making some mistakes, but I thought he did a real good job."
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