Demon Deacons Rally To Victory Over Georgia Tech
March 2, 2005
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - One by one Wake Forest's four seniors walked to center court and dropped to their knees. All in a line, they bowed their heads and kissed the court.
There was no better feeling than closing out their final season at Lawrence Joel Coliseum a perfect 16-0.
Vytas Danelius and Taron Downey kept No. 4 Wake Forest unbeaten at home by pulling the Demon Deacons out of an 11-point deficit and rallying them to a 98-91 victory over Georgia Tech on Wednesday night.
"Our seniors, this was their last game and they wanted it so bad," sophomore guard Chris Paul said. "It was all about them leaving the Joel perfect and they made sure it happened."
Danelius had 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Downey scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half and sparked two pivotal runs with 3-pointers.
Jamaal Levy, Wake Forest's only other scholarship senior, scored nine of his 10 points in the second half.
The trio turned it up after falling behind 45-37 at halftime and getting a lecture from coach Skip Prosser during the break.
"I really challenged a few of them at halftime and they really stepped up," Prosser said.
Downey said the Deacons (25-4, 12-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) played horrible defense in the first half, then turned it around after Prosser's scolding. Wake Forest had just three turnovers in the second half, and outrebounded the Yellow Jackets 37-29.
"He felt like we weren't playing with enough intensity and he just didn't see that we wanted it enough," Downey said. "He really put a spark under us."
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 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 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. Paul, who missed his first three baskets of the game and shot 2-for-7 in the first half, finished with 17 points and seven assists for his first double-figure game in four tries against Georgia Tech.
"I think he just got a lot of mismatches in the second half," Georgia Tech guard Jarrett Jack said. "He caught a lot of our big guys on top of him and got some good looks late."
Wake Forest also closed the game by making 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!"
Asked about the discrepancy in free throws, Hewitt said only "Next question."
The victory kept Wake Forest 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.
"We're trying to put some pressure on Carolina," Prosser said. "But I really think Sunday is going to be a hornet's nest - they are not unlike Georgia Tech in feeling that (NCAA tournament) bubble pressure."
Jack led Georgia Tech with 23 points, while B.J Elder had 22, Luke Schenscher 18 and Will Bynum 12.
Georgia Tech, which lost to Connecticut in last year's NCAA championship game, said it deserves a bid back into the tournament.
"I think we definitely are a tournament team," Jack said. "We took them down to the wire. We played with great effort and we just let the game get away."
Wake Forest's other senior is walk-on Scott Feather.
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