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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Wake Forest Pulls Away For 78-66 Win Over Florida State At ACC Tournament

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) - Justin Gray had 25 points and Eric Williams added 14 to help Wake Forest beat Florida State 78-66 Thursday in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, severely hurting the Seminoles' chances for an NCAA bid.

Chris Ellis swished a 3-pointer to give the 12th-seeded Demon Deacons (16-15) the lead for good with about 3 1/2 minutes left, and they pulled away from there for their second-straight win. For a team that started 2-13 in the ACC, it's quite an achievement.

Wake Forest moves on to the quarterfinals to play No. 25 North Carolina State.

Florida State (19-9) finished fifth during the regular season at 9-7, and coach Leonard Hamilton can only hope it was good enough for a spot in the NCAA tournament. Al Thornton had 17 points before fouling out and Isaiah Swann scored 12 for the Seminoles, who had won four of their past five games.

This one appeared to be going their way, too. Thornton's layup early in the second half gave them a 45-34 lead, and the margin still was seven following a 3 from Swann with 6:40 remaining. Yet Florida State went nearly 6 minutes without a basket, and Wake Forest took advantage.

An 11-0 run did the trick, and it started with Williams' post up move as he was fouled. He failed to make the free throw, but his teammates picked up the slack. Trent Strickland drove down the lane and Gray converted a pair at the line to bring the Deacons within one.

Ellis missed from the top of the key, then got another chance after Alexander Johnson clanged a shot off the rim on the other end. This time, Ellis took a pass in the corner from Justin Gray, and his unorthodox delivery sent the ball through from beyond the arc to put Wake Forest ahead 61-59, its first lead of the game.

The Seminoles, meanwhile, were falling apart. Thornton missed a wild 3-pointer from the wing that led to Gray's fallaway jumper on the ensuing possession as the Deacons pulled away.

They also had some good fortune. Johnson missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and after Strickland did the same, he was able to chase down the rebound. He drove down the middle and banked in a shot from straightaway, perhaps signifying this truly was Wake Forest's night.

Johnson eventually snapped that field goal drought with a putback in the final minute, but it only brought Seminoles within 10 points. Now they must wait and see what happens Sunday, when the NCAA selection committee picks the 65-team field.

Gray finished with eight assists and only one turnover, and Strickland grabbed all 10 of his rebounds on the defensive end. Ellis and Michael Drum each scored 10 points, while Todd Galloway had 10 for Florida State.

Wake Forest's Michael Drum (34) looks to pass over Florida State's Alexander Johnson during the first half of a first-round Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament game Thursday, March 9, 2006, in Greensboro, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Atlantic Coast Conference
Duke's J.J. Redick Named ACC Player of Year for Second Straight Season

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) - J.J. Redick delivered the kind of scoring onslaught rarely seen before in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Throw in helping Duke win another regular-season title, and it's no surprise that the senior sharpshooter is again the league's top player.

Redick was named The Associated Press league player of the year for the second straight time Tuesday, capping a season that saw him become the ACC's all-time scoring leader despite being the focus of every defense he faced.

Redick earned 105 of 108 votes from members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association to become only the 10th player to win the honor in back-to-back seasons. North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough - the ACC's rookie of the year - earned the other three votes.

Redick is the first player to win in consecutive seasons since Wake Forest's Tim Duncan (1996-97) and joins Danny Ferry (1988-89) as the only Duke players to do it. Behind Redick, Duke clinched at least a share of the ACC regular-season title for the seventh time in 10 seasons.

Even Redick - a 6-foot-4 guard with unshakable confidence in his unlimited shooting range - sounds a little amazed at his season, a point driven home by a conversation he had Monday with assistant coach Chris Collins.

"We were just chatting in his office and he pulled out a sheet of paper where he had written down all my stats, and he was like, 'If I had told you at the beginning of the year that these would be your stats, you wouldn't believe that,'" Redick said. "I said, 'You're probably right.'

"Individually, I had a great year, but I'm more happy we had a great year as a team."

Redick averaged 27.8 points, tallying three 40-point games for a team that spent 13 weeks at No. 1. That scoring run - which included a run of five straight 30-point games last month - helped him first pass Johnny Dawkins (2,556 points) as Duke's all-time scoring leader and later Wake Forest's Dickie Hemric (2,587 points) as the ACC's all-time leader.

Redick now has 2,638 points to rank 21st on the NCAA Division I career list, and has been in a close race with Gonzaga's Adam Morrison for the national scoring lead for much of the season.

Redick also led the league in minutes played (37.1) and 3-pointers made (3.7) per game, while also ranking among ACC leaders in field-goal percentage (48), free-throw percentage (88.6) and 3-point percentage (41.8).

His shooting stroke is so smooth that coach Mike Krzyzewski figures it will keep making money for Redick after a possible NBA career.

"Once he gets out of here, there will be tapes and books and a lot of people looking to see how he shoots his shot," Krzyzewski said.

But, gaudy numbers aside, Redick's senior season has been a challenge. He's the center of attention everywhere he goes, from admiring autograph seekers to hostile fans in opposing arenas. On one recent trip to a grocery store, a female fan even followed him around telling him she was his "bodyguard."

He's also grown tired of seeing the Redick-Morrison comparisons on ESPN, which have increased the spotlight on both players and "gotten out of hand," Redick said.

Redick went as far as to say that he hasn't had much fun in recent weeks, and that could explain why he's shot just 23-for-80 (29 percent) from the field and 8-for-36 from 3-point range in Duke's last four games. The Blue Devils lost their last two, including an 83-76 weekend home loss to rival North Carolina on Senior Night.

Redick said he probably put too much pressure on himself recently.

"Sometimes when that happens, you get inward and you worry about your shot and you make things bigger than they are," He said. "You almost overthink the situation. I should just go out and have fun and play with swagger and confidence."

And that's why Redick is looking forward to the ACC and NCAA tournaments, a chance to close his career in trophy-hoisting fashion.

"I wanted to leave a mark on the Duke culture, and part of that is winning," Redick said. "We're in a good place right now, and we've got a lot of room for improvement."

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