EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Everything went according to form for Jameer Nelson and Saint Joseph's.
Nelson scored 24 points to spearhead a strong offensive attack as the top-seeded Hawks held on for an 84-80 victory over No. 4 Wake Forest in the semifinals of the East Rutherford Region.
Employing the offensive game plan that has been the blueprint for its fabulous season, St. Joseph's (30-1) nailed 12 3-pointers and overcame its opponent's advantage inside. The Hawks take on second-seeded Oklahoma State on Saturday for a spot in the Final Four.
"(They) probably did to us what they did to 29 other teams," Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser said. "They really shot the three well. They just made some dagger threes."
Nelson's backcourt mate, Delonte West, also netted 24 points as the Hawks placed four players in double figures. Pat Carroll contributed 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting and reserve Tyrone Barley added 13 for the Hawks.
"It's really not about sticking our chests out," St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli said of prevailing in front of CBS commentator Billy Packer, who was critical of the Hawks' seeding.
"We're 30-1 and we're in the Elite Eight. This is one of the best teams in America. It is the best story in college basketball and it should be celebrated, in my opinion."
The Hawks took the lead for good early in the second half and were ahead by as many as 11 points. Wake Forest (21-10) climbed within two points twice in the final 45 seconds, but St. Joseph's countered first with a follow shot by Chet Stachitas with 33 seconds to go and again with two free throws by West for the final margin.
With Nelson efficiently running the offense, St. Joseph's was a healthy 12-of-24 from the arc. Carroll drained five 3-pointers and Barley added four, many resulting from drives to the basket by Nelson and West.
"I think once I got the chance to penetrate, they were leaving him (Carroll) open," Nelson said. "For him, it's like a layup. I think once he gets going, he's unguardable."
"No, they are not really like layups," Carroll said. "When you have an open opportunity with these guys penetrating, you are bound to get open."
St. Joseph's also got enough solid work on the glass against a bigger Wake Forest club to hold a 30-28 rebounding advantage and a surprising 15-9 edge in second-chance points. Carroll led the way with eight rebounds and unheralded center Dwayne Jones grabbed seven.
"I was pleased with holding our own on the backboards because the experts have said we can't rebound and we can't and we can't, and all we do is we keep winning," Martelli said.
The fast-paced game was to both teams' liking, with both shooting at least 50 percent. Justin Gray led Wake Forest with 23 points, Eric Williams added 19 and freshman Chris Paul had 12 and eight assists.
However, with the Hawks' edge in experience and 3-point accuracy, the tempo worked in their favor.
"When they're shooting well, every time you make a mistake they make you pay," Prosser said. "I don't think it's that cryptic."
St. Joseph's improved to 2-1 against Wake Forest in the NCAA Tournament. The Demon Deacons' lone win came in 1962 when Packer's late heroics sparked them to a 96-85 overtime triumph.