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Feb. 23, 2003

Box Score

Associated Press Writer

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Justin Gray didn’t have much time. He caught the ball with the shot clock winding down late in a tied game and chucked a 3-pointer from the left wing.

The ball bounced off the glass and went through the net.

“That’s why you pray at night,” the freshman said.

Gray’s desperation 3 with 1:35 left put No. 10 Wake Forest ahead to stay Sunday as the Demon Deacons held on to beat Virginia 75-71. Josh Howard scored 28 points and Vytas Danelius added 21 for Wake Forest (19-4, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), which won its 15th straight home game and remained a half-game ahead of Duke and Maryland in the ACC standings.

“While certainly it was not as well played as we would’ve liked, I thought our guys possessed the grit to somehow win the game,” Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser said.

Todd Billet scored 25 points to lead the Cavaliers (14-11, 5-8), who lost their fourth straight and fell to 1-6 on the road in ACC play. Devin Smith added 18 as the Cavaliers shot 52 percent, but committed 18 turnovers.

Virginia coach Pete Gillen held leading scorer Travis Watson out of the starting lineup for missing a class and “another commitment,” though Gillen wouldn’t elaborate. Watson, who came in averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds, was on the bench for the first 10 minutes and was not a factor Sunday. He finished with three points and four rebounds in 19 minutes.

“We have rules and standards at Virginia,” Gillen said. “Other schools could care less. We try to do things a different way, and that was it.”

The teams battled throughout the second half, trading the lead 11 times in the last 17 minutes.

Virginia took a 68-64 lead on Elton Brown’s inside bucket with 3:27 to play. Wake Forest answered, getting a jumper from Howard and a runner from Gray to tie it with 2:37 left.

Virginia’s Nick Vander Laan, left, and Jason Clark double-team Wake Forest’s Eric Williams (31) during the first half.



Gray put the Demon Deacons ahead to stay about a minute later. With 3 seconds on the shot clock, Gray inbounded the ball to Eric Williams, who passed it back to Gray. Gray dribbled to his left and fired the 3 over Jason Clark. The ball banked in for a 71-68 lead.

“I knew I got it off in time,” said Gray, who finished with nine points and made a similar big shot in a double-overtime win against Duke last week. “I didn’t know it was going in. And I didn’t call glass.”

Virginia had a chance to tie it late. Billet pulled the Cavaliers to within two on a free throw with 1:26 left, but mishandled the dribble with about 25 seconds left, leading to a jump ball that went to Wake Forest.

Howard and Danelius sealed the win by going 4-for-4 at the free-throw line.

“We just decided we were going to put our foot down and finish things off,” said Howard, who went 9-for-14 from the floor and 8-for-8 from the line. “When it came down to winning time, I guess we just wanted it a whole lot more.”

It was another tough loss for the Cavaliers, who have lost at North Carolina and at home to Duke and Clemson in the last two weeks. Before its four-game skid, Virginia had won at Maryland and at home against North Carolina State.

The Cavaliers had beaten Wake Forest 85-75 on Jan. 23 behind Billet’s 23 points, but Gray’s shot prevented a repeat.

“A shot like that with 3 seconds left on the shot clock goes in, you’re just like, ‘What else can we do?”‘ Billet said. “We defended them and put him against a wall. But he’s a guy who hits those kind of shots.”

Billet got the Cavaliers going early, hitting his first four shots – including three 3-pointers – for an 18-15 lead. Wake Forest had trouble getting into a rhythm against Virginia’s zone defense, but eventually pushed ahead 23-21 on a 3 from Howard with 6:56 to play in the half.

But Howard soon picked up his third foul, sending him to the bench for the final 5:23 of the half. With its leading scorer sidelined, Wake Forest missed seven of its last eight shots of the half.

Virginia took advantage, going on a 12-3 run to turn a two-point deficit into a 35-28 lead on Elton Brown’s inside bucket with 1:10 left in the half.

The Cavaliers shot 55 percent in the first half, including a 6-for-9 effort from 3-point range to take a 35-30 lead at the break.

The Cavaliers pushed the lead to eight on a 3 from Smith on their first possession after the break. But the Demon Deacons answered with an 11-2 run to take a 41-40 lead on Danelius’ turnaround jumper at the 15:33 mark.

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