Wake, N.C. State forge one semifinal

Top-seeded Deacons rally past Florida State, 69-61

Wolfpack ousts Ga. Tech


March 15, 2003|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- No matter what Wake Forest did against Florida State in the quarterfinals of the 50th Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, the top-seeded Demon Deacons knew they were going to be a high seed in this year's NCAA tournament.

North Carolina State was in a completely different situation, figuring it had to beat Georgia Tech and possibly get to the championship game in order to secure an at-large bid when the selections are announced tomorrow.

Their respective positions showed here yesterday afternoon at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Wake Forest's comfort zone was apparent in its sloppy 69-61 victory over the bottom-seeded Seminoles, as was the fourth-seeded Wolfpack's sense of urgency in scratching out a 71-65 win over the fifth-seeded Yellow Jackets.

Wake Forest (24-4) will meet North Carolina State (17-11) in today's first semifinal.

Marcus Melvin, who watched N.C. State's 10-point lead early in the second half turn into a five-point deficit with 8:33 remaining, admitted that his team's precarious RPI (65) might have played a factor in the way the Wolfpack wobbled.

"In a way, it's kind of hard to block that out," said Melvin. "As those things are going through your mind, it motivates you. It makes you want to give that extra effort."

A three-point shot by the junior forward started a stretch of 10 straight points for the Wolfpack in an overall run of 16-4 that enabled N.C. State to regain control of the game.

Melvin scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half, to go along with seven rebounds. Sophomore center Josh Powell led the Wolfpack with 18 points, eight rebounds and six blocks. Freshman forward Chris Bosh led Georgia Tech (14-14) with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

N.C. State coach Herb Sendek was happy with his team's resolve after blowing a sizable lead.

"I was especially proud of our guys the way they got back up and responded after we had a lead at halftime and Georgia Tech came out and took over the game," said Sendek. "I thought the guys came together and did what they had to do with a lot of character and a lot of heart."

The victory keeps the Wolfpack's hope for a second straight NCAA tournament bid alive and gives N.C. State a chance to reverse last Saturday's regular-season-ending 78-72 defeat at home to Wake Forest.

"The way it ended, at home, on a late whistle [that produced some key free throws] was really tough," said junior guard Scooter Sherrill. "We look forward to another shot."

Demon Deacons coach Skip Prosser knows his team will have to play better against the Wolfpack than it did against the Seminoles in order to advance to the school's first ACC final since winning back-to-back titles in 1995 and 1996 with Tim Duncan.

"I've been doing this about 30 years, and as I told the kids as far as tournament play, I believe one day has almost absolutely nothing to do with the next," said Prosser.

Wake Forest didn't seem to take the Seminoles seriously until midway through the second half. After trailing by as many as 11 points in the first half, the Demon Deacons demonstrated why they were the ACC's best team this season.

Scoring on eight straight possessions, Wake Forest tied the game at 50 on a three-point shot by sophomore forward Vytas Danelius, took the lead on two free throws by freshman forward Jamaal Levy and finished an 18-8 run on another basket by Danelius.

Florida State had its chances, cutting a 61-54 deficit to 63-59 on a three-point shot by junior guard Tim Pickett (17 points). Looking to cut the deficit even more, the Seminoles watched backup center Adam Waleskowski miss a wide-open layup when he should have dunked.

The Demon Deacons had escaped.

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