7:00 PM ET, February 12, 2004
Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, South Carolina
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -- Justin Gray remembered his coach's words as he lined up two critical 3-pointers.Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser "always talks about people taking cold-blood shots," Gray said Thursday night. "We ran two good plays and executed them well."They both finished just like Prosser and the Demon Deacons hoped -- Gray swishing long 3s and ending his team's two-game losing streak.Gray had a career-high 29 points as No. 20 Wake Forest defeated Clemson 82-67.Wake Forest has had a rough few weeks, losing six of their past eight coming into Littlejohn Coliseum after rising to No. 4 with an 11-0 start. Gray's outside shooting, though, got Wake Forest back on track."We had forgotten how to win," Prosser said. "We forgot how fun it is to win."The Deacons (14-6, 5-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) beat the Tigers (9-12, 2-8) for the 11th time in 12 meetings.Gray had 16 points in the first half, 12 of them coming in the last 10 minutes as the Deacons built a 32-25 lead. Then when the Tigers cut a 12-point deficit to 51-48 with 10:31 to go, Gray struck for back-to-back 3-pointers to make things a bit more comfortable for Wake Forest.Clemson could not recover. By the time Gray stole a pass and got an uncontested layup less than four minutes later, Wake Forest was ahead 67-50 and well in control.Gray's point total broke his mark of 27 set last month in a loss to Texas.Despite the ease they showed in winning this one, things get considerably harder for the Deacons their next three games -- home games with No. 13 Cincinnati and No. 1 Duke, then a road trip to No. 15 Georgia Tech.Gray and his teammates knew how important it was to find success in this one."We couldn't let up," Gray said. "It was a nationally televised game and the (NCAA tournament) committee's watching. Right now, this is a big win for us. I hope they realize that because we do."Freshman Chris Paul had 16 points and Jamaal Levy 12 for the Deacons.Olu Babalola led Clemson with a career-high 22 points. Sharrod Ford, the Tigers' leading scorer at 12 points a game coming in, was never a factor after picking up his third and fourth fouls less than a minute into the second half. He fouled out of the game with five points.The Tigers have lost six of their past seven. And this one was just one more time that Clemson first-year coach Oliver Purnell has watched his team close in on a league opponent yet fail down the stretch.He says his team may have expended too much energy chopping the lead down to pull ahead. But Purnell was disappointed at how open Gray looked on both his clutch second-half 3s."You can't have Gray ... who's on fire, take those 3s," Purnell said.Wake Forest made just three of its first 12 shots while Clemson went a stretch of 7:07 of the first half without scoring. Once Gray found his touch, Wake Forest heated up.The game was slowed by 57 fouls and 69 free throws. Wake Forest's backcourt of Gray and Paul combined to go 20 of 22 from the foul line.Clemson, meanwhile, made just 17 of its 34 free throws.Wake Forest was without Trent Strickland, a backup guard who did not travel to the game because of one-game disciplinary suspension, according to a team spokesman. After the game Prosser said he expected Strickland, who's averaged nearly eight points and four rebounds this season, at practice Friday.Prosser said he'd see how things went before deciding if Strickland would play against Cincinnati on Saturday.
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