CLEVELAND, Ohio (Ticker) -- Wake Forest guard Chris Paul showed how valuable he is.
Returning from a one-game suspension, Paul scored 20 points as the second-seeded Demon Deacons overcame their worst shooting half of the season to defeat 15th-seeded Chattanooga, 70-54, in a first-round game in the Albuquerque Region.
Wake Forest (27-5), which set a school record for wins in a season, faces Creighton or West Virginia in the second round Saturday.
Paul served a team-imposed suspension for punching North Carolina State's Julius Hodge in the groin in Wake Forest's regular-season finale. Without their point guard, the Demon Deacons were routed by the Wolfpack, 81-65, in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
"In the first half, (Paul) was out of sync a little bit," Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser said. "In the second half, he looked more like Chris Paul."
Paul sparked Wake Forest against Southern Conference foe Chattanooga (20-11) after the Demon Deacons shot just 28 percent (9-of-32) and committed 10 turnovers in the first half.
"I think it was just a case of tournament jitters," Paul said. "I hope I got it out of my system. I thought we came on strong in the second half and went inside which opened up our outside game."
Wake Forest fell behind, 23-15, on Chris Brown's 3-pointer with 5:34 left in the first half but despite their poor play, the Demon Deacons only trailed, 27-24, at the intermission.
"I read in USA Today, that we came in as the third-best 3-point shooting team in the tournament (40.5 percent)," Prosser said. "But we shot them a little bit too quickly (tonight). It was a little surprising. I'm not sure how much of it was Chattanooga or ourselves. We have to get back to playing Wake Forest basketball."
The Demon Deacons were just 5-of-23 from the field during the first 14 minutes and 2-of-15 from beyond the arc in the first half.
Paul, who scored 13 points in the second half, hit a pair a 3-pointers in the first six minutes, the second tying the contest at 38-38. Trent Strickland followed with a layup that gave Wake Forest the lead for good at 40-38 with 13:06 remaining.
With the Demon Deacons holding a 47-42 lead, Taron Downey hit back-to-back 3-pointers to ignite a 12-3 spurt that put away the contest.
The Mocs turned the ball on its first four possessions of the second half, then missed a pair of free throws. The nation's second-leading rebounding team at plus-11, were outrebounded by four and finished with 22 turnovers.
"We battled, we scrapped, and we competed with I think one of the best teams in the country," Chattanooga coach John Shulman said.
Brown scored 14 points and Alphonso Pugh scored 13 off the bench for the Mocs.
"Most of the turnovers were just mental mistakes by us," Chattanooga guard Casey Long said.