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N.C. State overcomes 16-point deficit

2/5/2004

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Wake Forest spent the first half running
through the North Carolina State defense to take a 16-point
halftime lead.

The Wolfpack spent the next 20 minutes shutting down that
up-tempo attack to earn its biggest comeback win in more than 11
years.

Marcus Melvin had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and N.C. State
rallied from an 18-point deficit to upset (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 16 AP) Wake Forest 73-68
Wednesday night. Julius Hodge scored 18 points while Scooter Sherrill added 16 for the Wolfpack (13-5, 6-2 Atlantic Coast
Conference), who improved to 11-0 at the RBC Center.

Wake Forest overwhelmed the Wolfpack's defense in the first
half, shooting 59 percent to take a 46-30 lead at the break. But
the Wolfpack rallied, holding Wake Forest to 24 percent in the
second half and getting some big shots from seniors Melvin and
Sherrill.

It was the largest halftime deficit the Wolfpack has overcome
since rallying from 17 points down in a 69-68 win against Oregon
State in December 1992. N.C. State improved to 6-2 in the ACC for
the first time since the 1988-89 season, when coach Jim Valvano led
the Wolfpack to its last league regular-season title.

"It clearly wasn't a matter of X's and O's (at halftime)," N.C.
State coach Herb Sendek said. "We knew we just would have to come
out and give it everything we had to get back into the game
somehow. To our guys' credit, they never quit. They just kept
playing."

Justin Gray scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half to lead
the Demon Deacons (13-5, 4-4), who have lost five of seven since
starting the season 11-0.

After watching the Demon Deacons cruise through the first half,
the Wolfpack tightened up on the perimeter and slowed the Demon
Deacons' up-tempo attack. After seeming to score from everywhere on
the court in the first half, Wake Forest struggled to 16 points in
the first 15 minutes of the second half.

Wake Forest shot just 6-for-25 after the break.

"It's one of those things you just can't believe that
happened," said Wake Forest center Eric Williams, who had 12
points and five rebounds.

N.C. State shot 48 percent in the second half and hit 11 of 13
free throws to get back in the game.

"We just wanted to come out in the second half with a lot of
intensity," Melvin said. "We didn't come out and try to get it
back in one shot. We just went possession by possession."

The Deacons led 62-56 on a free throw from Williams, but the
Wolfpack responded with an 11-1 run by taking the ball to the hole
and getting to the free-throw line.

Sherrill came through with eight straight points that put N.C.
State ahead to stay. After a three-point play from Melvin, Sherrill
drained a 3 off a turnover to tie it at 62 with 4:41 to play.

He followed with two free throws for N.C. State's first lead at
64-62 with 3:46 left. Then, after a free throw from Jamaal Levy,
Sherrill scored on a putback and completed the three-point play for
a 67-63 lead with 3:02 left.

The Demon Deacons closed that gap to 67-66 with two free throws
from Williams, but Melvin responded with a 3 off a feed from Hodge
with 29.8 seconds left. Melvin and Hodge then went 3-for-4 from the
line to seal it.

"I thought we had some good looks to stop the bleeding," Wake
Forest coach Skip Prosser said. "We didn't make enough of them."

Sherrill's defense on Gray in the second half also was critical
in shutting down Wake Forest's attack. Gray went 1-for-8 in the
second half.

"In the second half, I tried to get in his face more and make
him go to the hole more," Sherrill said. "We've got great help
down there and I was able to contain him a little more."

The Demon Deacons got off to a quick start, hitting their first
five shots to take a seven-point lead in the first four minutes.
They increased that lead by knocking down open looks off good ball
movement.

The Demon Deacons got contributions from everywhere. Whether
slamming it over Jordan Collins or hitting a turnaround shot over
Ilian Evtimov, Williams controlled the inside before going to the
bench with two fouls.

Gray found Taron Downey for an open 3 that gave Wake Forest its
largest lead at 46-28 with 1:26 left in the half.