GREENSBORO, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Julius Hodge scored a career-high 31 points as North Carolina State advanced to the final of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament for the second straight season with an 87-83 win over ninth-ranked Wake Forest.
Hodge also grabbed nine rebounds as North Carolina State (18-11) ended an eight-game losing streak against Wake Forest and most likely secured a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"It certainly was a team victory," Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek said. "That is the only way we've been able to win this year. Needless to say we're very happy and proud of our effort today."
Marcus Melvin added 23 points and Josh Powell 16 for the Wolfpack, who face Duke in Sunday's final for the second straight year.
Hodge and Marcus each hit 4-of-7 shots from behind the arc, where the Wolfpack connected on 53 percent (10-of-19) of their attempts.
"We played together," Melvin said. "We really didn't worry about things we messed up on. We just moved on to the next play. We played great defense down the stretch. Whenever we needed a stop, we made that stop."
ACC Player of the Year Josh Howard scored 21 points to lead Wake Forest (24-5), which has not advanced to the final since 1996. Howard had 12 rebounds, but shot poorly, making just 6-of-21 attempts while being defended by Hodge.
"Josh Howard is a great player and very good on the boards," Hodge said. "We were sending two guys at him and he still was getting offensive rebounds. It is really a team game and I didn't stop him by myself."
"They were playing good defense," Howard said. "I just didn't hit some open shots that I had. It happens. It happened to me earlier in the season."
Taron Downey contributed 18 points, while Vytas Danelius and freshman Eric Williams each added 12 for the Demon Deacons, who shot 39 percent (24-of-61).
N.C. State was just 3-of-11 from behind the arc in the first half and trailed, 37-33, at the break. But the Wolfpack hit their first seven 3-point attempts in the second half and went ahead for good, 41-39, when Clifford Crawford hit a jumper with 18:05 remaining.
"In the second half, we didn't guard nearly as well and they shot 63 percent," Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser said. "They just shot the ball extremely well from the 3-point line. Again, that is a function of our defense, but it is also a function of their excellent offense."
Scooter Sherrill, who had nine points, hit a 3-pointer to cap a 14-2 run and give the Wolfpack a 47-39 advantage with 14:54 to go.
NC State took its biggest lead with 5:17 left, when Hodge made a 3-pointer to make it 70-57.
Justin Gray, who scored 14 points off the bench, made a pair of free throws to cap a 9-2 burst and pull the Demon Deacons within, 77-71, with 65 seconds to go. But Melvin answered with a pair from the line nine second later and made 5-of-6 from the line over the next 21 seconds.
Howard made a follow shot to cut the deficit to, 84-80, with 12 seconds left, but two seconds later Hodge sank a pair from the line. Downey nailed a 3-pointer with five seconds remaining, and Sherill made 1-of-2 from the line three seconds later for the final margin.
"Down the stretch, it was us making our free throws," Hodge said. "We missed a couple, but Marcus sealed the deal with two allowing us to get a big win today."
NC State shot 83 percent (29-of-35) from the line, while Wake Forest hit at 81 percent (29-of-36) and lost to an unranked team for only the second time this season.
The Demon Deacons had a seven-game winning streak stopped and probably lost any chance at a top seed in next week's NCAA Tournament.