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Updated: Monday, February 23, 2004 12:01 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(15) Wake Forest 80, (16) Georgia Tech 76

ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Wake Forest freshman Chris Paul's only basket of the game negated a second-half comeback by Georgia Tech.

Paul's tough driving layup with 12 seconds left sealed No. 15 Wake Forest's 80-76 Atlantic Coast Conference victory over No. 16 Georgia Tech.

The Demon Deacons (17-6, 7-5 ACC) have defeated three consecutive ranked opponents for the first time in school history. Wake Forest previously beat Cincinnati and Duke.

"While Georgia Tech certainly played very well against Chris, it was a big-time play by a big-time player," Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser said.

Justin Gray scored 16 of his 26 points in the first half as Wake Forest rattled off a 21-4 run to start the game and took a 39-26 lead into halftime.

"We got off to a bad start, obviously because of Justin Gray," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "We battled back with the help of B.J. Elder."

Elder, Georgia Tech's leading scorer, was held to one point in the first half while sitting with two fouls, but exploded with 26 after halftime to lead the comeback.

Reserve guard Will Bynum's layup tied it, 71-71, with 3:34 remaining. But Wake Forest responded with Gray's tip-in sandwiched between two baskets by center Eric Williams, who scored 13 points.

"I called a timeout and said, 'Fellows, we aren't going to shoot our way out of trouble, you have to execute your way out of trouble'," Prosser said.

A long 3-pointer by Elder with 41 seconds to play made it 78-76, and Georgia Tech (19-7, 6-6) played for the stop. But Paul, a standout first-year player who missed his first five shots, penetrated and hung in the air before making the clinchning shot.

"We made a criticla mistake by not fouling, and that falls on me," Hewitt said. "Give Wake Forest credit, they finished the game strong."

"I feel like Tommy Hanks on the island - somehow we survived," Prosser said. "I was out there ready to start talking to volleyballs. I can't be more proud of our kids."

Taron Downey scored 19 points for Wake Forest, which shot 57 percent (27-of-47) from the field, the best against Georgia Tech this season. However, the Demon Deacons left the Yellow Jackets in the game by comitting 23 turnovers and being uable to sink their free throws.

The game was extremely physical as the Yellow Jackets shot 28 free throws and the Demon Deacons were a dismal 17-of-33 from the line. Georgia Tech had starter Anthony McHenry and reserve Isma'il Muhammad foul out of the contest.

Jarrett Jack scored 21 points for Georgia Tech, which was temporarily denied its first 20-win season since 1995-96.


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