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Updated: Monday, March 7, 2005 12:39 AM EST
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(4) Wake Forest 55, No Carolina St 53

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Ticker) -- It was not his best game, but Chris Paul ended it in dramatic fashion.

Paul went the length of the court to make a runner as the buzzer sounded as fourth-ranked Wake Forest overcame an inspired performance by North Carolina State to post a 55-53 Atlantic Coast Conference victory.

Entering the game the third-best offensive team in the nation at 86.4 points per game, the Demon Deacons (26-4, 13-3 ACC) struggled mightily in the second half, but turned it on down the stretch to continue their bid for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

After Justin Gray sank a deep 3-pointer from the right wing to tie the score, 53-53, with 12 seconds to play, Engin Atsur failed to answer for N.C. State, airballing a shot from the arc that bounced once and went out of bounds.

Inbounding the ball under the Wolfpack's basket with 4.3 seconds remaining, Paul threw a pass to Vytas Danelius, got the ball back and raced to the right wing where he took a bump from Atsur before tossing up a runner that found the bottom of the net.

With the victory, Wake Forest finished second in league play, a game behind North Carolina, which captured its first outright league title in 12 years with a 75-73 victory over Duke earlier Sunday.

For N.C. State, the loss put the school's bid for an NCAA berth in serious jeopardy and ended senior Julius Hodge's career here on a down note. Hodge, only the fourth ACC player to surpass 1,900 points, 400 assists and 700 rebounds for a career, finished 3-of-5 for nine points.

Paul finished 3-of-10 from the field with six assists, but had seven of Wake Forest's 16 turnovers. Gray scored 15 points despite shooting 5-of-16 for the Demon Deacons, who shot 38 percent (20-of-53), including 29 percent (6-of-21) in the second half.

Leading 35-27 at the break, Wake Forest missed nine of its first 11 shots in the second half and went nearly 10 minutes without a basket until Taron Downey made a layup with 7:26 remaining. In that span, N.C. State went on a 12-1 run to take a 42-40 lead until Downey tied it with his layup. It was the first lead for the Wolfpack since 2-0 in the opening moments of the contest.

Paul made his only 3-pointer of the game for a 45-44 advantage with 6:46 to play, but Hodge split two free throws and Atsur made a shot from the arc to put N.C. State ahead, 48-45, with 4:23 remaining.

The Demon Deacons closed the regular season with four straight wins and 10 in their last 11 games despite losing center Eric Williams in the final crucial seconds of the contest. Playing with four fouls since the 10:38 mark of the second half, Williams fouled out of the contest with 26 seconds left trying to establish position in the lane. He had 11 points and seven rebounds.

Ilian Evtimov scored 12 of his 19 points in the first half, finishing 5-of-8 on 3-pointers. He was the lone player to reach double figures for the Wolfpack, who shot 39 percent (9-of-23) and missed 5-of-8 free throws in the final 20 minutes.

© 2005 STATS, Inc