Paul's late push helps Wake pull out win over VCU, 79-78

Texas Tech stops threes, Charlotte

No. 1 St. Joe's rights self against Liberty

Ncaa Regional

East Rutherford

March 19, 2004|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

RALEIGH, N.C. - Wake Forest looked like a team in the midst of a confidence crisis for most of its game against Virginia Commonwealth in the opening round of the NCAA tournament yesterday at the RBC Center.

The Demon Deacons, a No. 4 seed despite losing their previous three games, appeared on the verge of having their season end. That was before freshman point guard Chris Paul took over.

Paul, the Freshman of the Year in the Atlantic Coast Conference, brought Wake Forest back from a six-point deficit midway through the second half to lead the Demon Deacons to a 79-78 victory.

By finding open teammates twice during a run of three straight three- point shots that turned the game, Paul helped Wake Forest (20-9) forge a 66-63 lead. Paul then scored 10 of his team's last 13 points, including four free throws in the last 11.9 seconds to seal the win.

"I wouldn't trade him for any point guard in the country." Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser said of Paul, who finished with 22 points and seven assists.

After an early rut, the Rams (23-8) pulled ahead, 68-67, on a three by B.A. Walker with 3:55 left, and went ahead again, 73-72, on a jumper by Domonic Jones (22 points, seven assists) with 1:55 remaining.

"We were not scared or afraid or even intimidated." said second-year VCU coach Jeff Capel, familiar with Wake Forest from his career playing at Duke.

But Jamaal Levy, who played the entire second half despite suffering a sprained knee in the first half, tied the score on a free throw, then gave the Demon Deacons the lead for good on a dunk off an assist from Paul.

Buffalo, N.Y.

Texas Tech 76, Charlotte 73: Andre Emmett scored 20 on 8-for-11 shooting and delivered a critical steal and basket with 58 seconds left as the No. 8 seed Red Raiders (23-10) defeated the No. 9 49ers (21-9) in a first-round game at HSBC Arena.

The Red Raiders will play St. Joseph's in the second round of the East Rutherford Regional tomorrow.

Charlotte lived at the three-point arc all season - shooting 658 attempts in 29 games - but could not get free against Tech's aggressive man-to-man defense. The 49ers were 4-for-13 on threes in the first half as Texas Tech opened a 39-25 lead.

Charlotte never got closer than five until Curtis Withers hit a three with half a second remaining.

The win gave Bobby Knight the 43rd tournament victory of his career, fourth all time.

Saint Joseph's 82, Liberty 63: The Hawks" concern in their first game as the region's top seed wasn't the opponent. No, the biggest concern was how the Hawks would respond after being routed by Xavier in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament, which ended a 27-game victory streak.

The Hawks (28-1) shot 57 percent in the first half and jumped to a 46-26 halftime lead on the way to beating the 16th-seeded Flames (18-15).

"It was good to see that our speed was back defensively." Hawks coach Phil Martelli said.

Jameer Nelson had 33 points on 11-for-17 shooting, including 3-for-6 from three-point range.

The Hartford Courant, a Tribune publishing newspaper, contributed to this article.

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