March 17, 1995|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

Everything you needed to know about the Wake Forest-North Carolina A&T mismatch could be found in the center jump that began the game.

Wake Forest, the No. 1 seed in the East Region, put 6-foot-10 Tim Duncan, its third-team All-American, in the circle. North Carolina A&T, which began postseason play with a losing record, sent out Tyrone Brice, a stocky 6-foot guard who had done the duty once before, against Junior Burrough in a 44-point loss to Virginia back in November.

Conceding the tap and falling back was only the start of the token opposition put up by the Aggies yesterday. Wake Forest had a 9-2 lead after five minutes, never looked back and coasted to a 79-47 rout in the first NCAA tournament game ever played at the Baltimore Arena.

Coach Dave Odom and the Demon Deacons are rested, relaxed and confident heading into tomorrow afternoon's second-round game against Saint Louis.

Wake Forest (25-5) has won 11 in a row, and it has another streak in its favor: The past three NCAA champions began the tournament with a romp over a minor-conference foe from North Carolina.

"It's sort of like a locomotive," said Travis Banks, the Demon Deacons' unheralded forward. "Once the train gets going, it's hard to stop. We have a pretty good head of steam going right now."

Randolph Childress, the Wake Forest guard from Clinton who might be the hottest player in the nation, wasn't close to 100 percent physically, but North Carolina A&T (15-15) nonetheless got swept off the tracks.

For one half, the Aggies were on pace to set an NCAA early-rounds record for lowest team field-goal percentage. Duncan, who had game-high totals of 21 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots, intimidated North Carolina A&T, which was 2-for-13 inside the three-point stripe in the first half.

North Carolina A&T was heartened by an 18-12 deficit after 11 minutes, but Childress, the senior leader, started growling at his teammates, Odom appealed to the 18-year-old Duncan to be more assertive, and it was over quickly as the Demon Deacons scored the next nine points.

All five Wake Forest starters scored in double figures, and Winston-Salem also produced the only player who showed up for North Carolina A&T. John Floyd, a 6-6 forward who attended high school near the Wake Forest campus, had 18 points.

The rest of the 16th-seeded Aggies were an ice-cold 11 of 42 from the field, as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference fell to 0-14 in the NCAA tournament.

"You can't win shooting 5-for-23 in the first half," said Aggies coach Roy Thomas, whose team upset Coppin State in the MEAC final March 4 to reach the NCAAs. "If you don't score, you can't press. When you're giving up as much height as we were, you're limited in what you can do."

There appear to be no limits, meanwhile, to Wake Forest's ascent.

The Demon Deacons weren't ranked in one of the two national polls at the start of the season. A month ago, after it lost to Florida State, Wake Forest was No. 14. After Childress shot the Demon Deacons to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship, the NCAA anointed them as one of the four No. 1 seeds.

"No matter what happens, this team is really on an even keel," Odom said. "Back in October, when expectations weren't that high, Randolph asked, 'Why can't we do better?' Now, he asks, 'Why shouldn't we be seeded where we are? We've earned it.' We've got a realistic chance to win every game we play."

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