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Gray scores 26 points for Demon Deacons

1/31/2004

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) -- One solid shooting night was all it
took for Justin Gray to forget a string of poor performances.

Gray was nearly flawless Saturday, scoring 26 points to lead Wake Forest (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP) to a 91-78 victory over Virginia.

He made his first four shots of the game, including three
3-pointers, to spark the Demon Deacons (13-4, 4-3 Atlantic Coast
Conference) to an early lead that Virginia (12-6, 2-5) never
challenged.

It was a confidence-builder for Gray, who had been in a
mini-slump that hit bottom last Sunday in a 1-for-10 performance in
a loss to Florida State.

"I told him the other day after he was 1-for-10 that I am never
going to take you out for taking a shot," Wake Forest coach Skip
Prosser said. "He's a good shooter and I don't want him
hesitating, I want him shooting the ball."

Gray finished 7-of-10 from the field, went 5-for-8 on 3-pointers
and was 7-of-8 from the line. He also led Wake Forest with six
rebounds and four assists.

"When Coach gives me the green light, it makes me more
comfortable knowing he's behind me 100 percent," Gray said. "He
showed me the other day some stats I had last year in back-to-back
bad games, and then showed me I came back with like 26 points after
that. He just told me shooters have bad nights sometimes, keep
shooting."

Trent Strickland added 14 points, Taron Downey scored 13, and
Jamaal Levy and Kyle Visser had 10 each.

Wake Forest leading scorer Eric Williams continued his six-game
slump with just four points and one rebound before fouling out with
7:27 to play. Williams, who averages 14.1 points, has scored a
combined 41 in the Deacons' last six games.

"I acknowledge I am in a slump, but I won't get down about
it," Williams said. "I had good looks today and the ball just
wasn't falling. It wasn't falling for Justin two weeks ago, and now
it is. It will fall for me again."

Elton Brown led Virginia (12-6, 2-5) with 24 points. Derrick
Byars added 18 in a pathetic offensive performance for the
Cavaliers. They missed all 12 of their 3-point attempts, had 19
turnovers and went 16-of-27 from the free throw line.

The Cavaliers were able to make the final score look respectable
with a late push after Wake Forest emptied its bench.

"We were swinging," Virginia coach Pete Gillen said. "We kept
scratching and clawing. And if you hit some 3s ... but we didn't
hit a 3 all game."

The Deacons opened the game with the three-guard lineup that had
gone 9-0 before Prosser temporarily went back to the more
traditional starting unit.

The switch worked extremely well as Downey, Gray and Chris Paul
combined to score Wake Forest's first 27 points of the game. The
Deacons started a perfect 6-for-6 from the field and Gray and
Downey started a perfect 6-for-6 from 3-point range.

It sparked Wake Forest to an early 37-10 lead that Virginia
couldn't overcome.

"They came out and like a fight, in the first 10, 20 seconds,
the guy just swings and knocks you on your back," Gillen said.
"They were on fire, they played great, and we were stunned."

Wake Forest took a 44-27 lead into halftime, then watched as
Virginia tried to chip away. The Cavaliers got consecutive baskets
from Gary Forbes and Jason Clark to cut it to 56-42, but Wake
answered with a 9-0 run capped by Strickland rebounding Visser's
missed free throw and slamming it in for a 65-42 lead.

The game then got away from Virginia, which played little
defense over the next 90 seconds as Wake Forest put the game away.
Levy opened a quick scoring spurt with a dunk, Strickland hit a 3
and scored on a dunk and Gray made his fifth 3-pointer of the game
for a 75-47 Wake Forest lead with 8:24 to play.