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Updated: Friday, March 14, 2003 10:47 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL PREVIEW
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Florida St (14-14) vs No. 9 Wake Forest (23-4)
FLORIDA ST. SEMINOLES
Florida St. Seminoles
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WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
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GREENSBORO, North Carolina (Ticker) -- After capturing the outright regular-season championship in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time in 41 years, ninth-ranked Wake Forest opens play in the conference tournament Friday when it meets Florida State.

Wake Forest (23-4) won its final six games to win the ACC regular-season crown by two games over Duke and Maryland. The Demon Deacons can now set their sights on winning their first ACC tournament crown since posting back-to-back titles in 1995 and 1996.

Josh Howard cemented his status as conference Player of the Year with 27 points on 8-of-10 shooting as Wake Forest captured the crown with a 78-72 victory at North Carolina State last Saturday. Howard made six foul shots in the final two seconds to clinch it as the Demon Deacons rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit and won for the 11th time in 12 games.

Howard is averaging 20.1 points per game and is Wake Forest's first All-American since Tim Duncan. The sleek swingman has scored 20 or more points in six of his last seven outings.

Wake Forest has won six straight meetings with Florida State, including both matchups this season. The Demon Deacons had to work hard in the last meeting for a 60-56 victory on February 26.

Vytas Danelius scored 17 points as Wake Forest overcame a tough night from Howard, who scored 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting. The Demon Deacons faced a 42-39 deficit with 12:47 remaining before rallying for the victory.

Tim Pickett scored 16 points, but made just 5-of-20 shots for the Seminoles, who shot just under 30 percent and made 10-of-29 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Florida State (14-14) advanced with a 72-61 victory over Clemson on Thursday in the first round. Pickett collected 22 points and 12 rebounds and Nate Johnson added a season-high 18 points while draining four 3-pointers.

The Seminoles improved to 1-4 at the Greensboro Coliseum in ACC tournament play.

The winner will meet North Carolina State or Georgia Tech in Saturday's semifinals.


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