NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Taron Downey played through the pain after freshman teammate Chris Paul played doctor.
Downey scored 20 points off the bench just over a week after an emergency appendectomy to lead No. 21 Wake Forest to a season-opening 85-76 victory over Memphis in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
Downey underwent surgery on November 5, did not practice for a week and was not expected to play. Coach Skip Prosser indicated he would sit the junior guard in favor of the highly touted Paul.
"I told him, 'We're gonna miss Taron, but I'm sleeping like a baby because I've got you,'" Prosser said.
Downey entered just over five minutes into the game and made a runner on his first shot. Paul played the role of doctor a few minutes later.
"At the 12-minute mark, I said, 'It's game time,'" Paul said. "I hit him in the stomach and said, 'There's no pain.'"
Downey scored 14 points in the second half, making a pair of 3-pointers in a 15-5 run that opened a 73-59 advantage with 4:10 to play. He was 4-of-7 from the arc.
"The doctor gave me the go-ahead on Tuesday, but coach kept me out," Downey said. "I started playing on Wednesday. When I get it, I'm hurt. But I'm fine now."
"I'm surprised he was even playing," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "I was hoping he'd be out and we could bother Paul a little bit."
Paul was steady in his debut with 10 points, despite 1-of-7 shooting. Wake Forest's third guard, Justin Gray, scored all of his 12 points in the first half.
Gray departed early in the half with a third foul, forcing Paul and Downey to man the backcourt. The move paid off as Downey's driving layup helped spark a 9-1 run that closed the first half and built a 39-36 lead.
"Early in the game, I kept asking him if he wanted to come out," said Prosser, who improved to 11-0 in season openers. "Later in the game, I decided to stop asking him."
The Demon Deacons placed five players in double figures. Burly sophomore Eric Williams netted 11 points and Trent Strickland had 10 off the bench for Wake Forest, playing its first game since losing Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year Josh Howard to the NBA.
Wake Forest made 19-of-26 free throws after a dismal 6-of 11 showing in the first 20 minutes.
Rodney Carney led Memphis with 19 points, including a 4-of-8 performance from the arc. The perimeter-oriented Tigers, who lost frontcourt starters Chris Massie and Earl Barron to graduation, were 10-of-29 on 3-pointers and shot 39 percent (27-of-68) overall.
"Twenty-nine is too may," Calipari admitted. "We've got to create more of a post presence and not be such a jump-shooting team."
Antonio Burks contributed 13 points and nine assists, but he and backcourt mate Anthony Rice combined for 12 of the Tigers' 16 turnovers. Freshman Sean Banks, who attended Bergen Catholic High School in New Jersey, collected 10 points and 14 rebounds in his first game.
The Tigers defeated eventual national champion Syracuse in this event last season.