Previewing Wake Forest

Beating Wake Forest will be a tall order for the Tar Heels tonight in Winston-Salem. Tip-off is at 9 p.m. on RJ. <br><center> (<a target=new href="">INTERNET BROADCAST</a>) - (<a href="'','GameTrackermbaskbl','toolbar=no,resizeable=no,scrollbars=no,width=780,height=540'); void('');">LIVE STATS</a>)</center>

North Carolina (15-13, 5-9) vs. No. 9 Wake Forest (21-4, 11-3)
Lawrence Joel Coliseum, Winston-Salem, N.C.
9:06 p.m., RJ (Steve Martin (play-by-play) and Dan Bonner)


"We're happy to come off a win against Georgia Tech and now we face a big challenge in playing at Wake Forest. Obviously one of the best teams in the conference and senior night for Josh Howard. But we're looking forward to playing the basketball game. ...

"We played pretty well against Wake Forest at home and they may not have played their best game. But they have a chance to win the league regular season championship for the first time since 1962. They're a very good basketball team and we're going into their building. We've got to go in there and perform very well to have a chance to win against one of the best teams in our league."


"We know we have a very challenging game Wednesday night against Carolina. That's a team I have a lot of respect for. It's another difficult ACC game and one we're looking forward to playing. ...

"[Josh Howard] didn't work out [Monday] and we're hopeful he can play. But that's still up in the air. ... He really wants to play and he's getting extra, extra, extra treatment. But it'll probably be a gametime decision."

Wake Forest Scouting Report
by Brett Ayers

Offensive Schemes - Wake is a team that wants to come at you on the break primarily. Howard, Danelius, Downey and company all want to get as many buckets in transition as they can. When they do have to slow it down the main focus of their attack is Josh Howard, who right now is probably the best player in the ACC. Howard will shoot the three, post up, drive on you and shoot the pull up. They throw lobs to him, you name it he does it. Williams is a solid low block scorer and Danelius is playing better each time I see him. Wake likes to run a series of about six to eight entry plays, some things out of the 1-4 set. Their biggest weakness tends to be attacking zones. They are becoming very stagnant and passive offensively against zones. They are not a team that wants to make a lot of passes on offense if they don't have to.

Defensive Schemes - Wake will throw everything at you but the kitchen sink. You may see some 2-2-1 full court press, some 1-2-1-1 full court press, some man-to-man full court pressure. You might also see some half court scramble a-la UNC out of time outs. Will play either man-to-man or zone in the half court, it really depends upon how they feel they match-up with UNC. Wake is not very good at blocking out on the defensive boards and they are very open to getting hurt there.

Players to Watch:

Josh Howard - Mr. Everything for Wake. Shoots the three, drives, pulls up, gets lobs. He does everything but drive the bus to the game as far as I can tell.

Vytas Danelius - Much like Songalia before him, he is rough and tumble and at times can be very foul proned. He is, however, becoming more confident and polished with each game. He has long arms that make him seem a lot taller than he is.

Eric Williams - Just a wide load down on the block and a kid who has very soft hands. He still has lot of work ahead of him, but losing that weight before the start of the season has made him much better.

Taron Downey - A lefty who has nice range and is very athletic. If you fall asleep on him he will drive down the middle and rise up over the top of you and dunk it on you.

Probable Starting Lineup:
   Taron Downey (6-2, G, So.) – 10.2 ppg, 4.4 apg
   Josh Howard (6-6, F, Sr.) – 19.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg
   Jamaal Levy (6-9, F, So.) – 7.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg
   Vytas Danelius (6-8, F, So.) – 13.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg
   Eric Williams (6-9, C, Fr.) – 8.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg
Key Reserves: 
   Justin Gray  (6-2, G, Fr.) – 11.6 ppg
   Trent Strickland  (6-5, G, Fr.) – 5.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg
   Steve Lepore  (6-5, G, Sr.) – 3.3 ppg
   Chris Ellis  (6-8, F, Fr.) – 3.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg

Wake Forest Info

Photo Gallery

Josh Howard ... Vytas Danelius

Taron Downey ... Skip Prosser

(Photos courtesy the AP.)

Game Notes
by WF Sports Info

Wake Forest-UNC Series History

The Records: WAKE FOREST is 21-4 overall and 11-3 in the ACC after an 80-68 win over visiting Clemson on Sunday. NORTH CAROLINA is 15-13 and 5-9 after beating visiting Georgia Tech, 67-66, on Saturday.

The Rankings: WAKE FOREST is ranked ninth in the Associated Press poll and 10th in the ESPN/USA Today poll. NORTH CAROLINA is not ranked.

WFU Coach Skip Prosser: Prosser (U.S. Merchant Marine Academy '72) is 42-17 in his second season at Wake Forest, 207-95 in 10 years overall. Prosser coached one season at Loyola (MD) and seven seasons at Xavier before coming to Wake Forest

North Carolina Coach Matt Doherty: Doherty (North Carolina '84) is 49-40 in three seasons at his alma mater, 71-56 in four seasons overall.

Series History: North Carolina leads, 146-60. More series information on page 11.

Trivial Note: Wake Forest (10) and North Carolina (9) combine to have 19 freshmen and sophomores on their collective rosters.

ACC-leading Deacons host UNC in final home game Wednesday night -- Wake Forest, one of college basketball's biggest surprises in 2002-03 as the leader in the ACC standings, hosts North Carolina Wednesday night in the final home game of the season (9:06 p.m./Jefferson-Pilot TV). Wednesday's game is also the final home game for senior All-American candidate Josh Howard and Steve Lepore. The ninth-ranked Deacons, 21-4 overall and 11-3 in the ACC, won their fourth straight Saturday against visiting Clemson, 80-68. Howard scored 29 points, freshman Justin Gray came off the bench for 16 points and sophomore Vytas Danelius had a double-double in the win. Wake Forest has won nine of its last 10 ACC games -- its best ACC run in more than 40 years. North Carolina, 15-13 and 5-9, is coming off a thrilling 67-66 win over visiting Georgia Tech on Saturday. Freshman Raymond Felton had 19 points and five assists to lead the Tar Heels. North Carolina leads the all-time series, 146-60. Wake Forest has won the last three meetings, including a 79-75 win in Chapel Hill on Feb. 2. More series information on page 11. Some of Wednesday's storylines: - Wake Forest, with a win, would clinch at least a share of the ACC regular season title for the first time since a four-way share of the crown in 1994-95. The Deacons need a win Wednesday and another victory Saturday at NC State to guarantee the league crown outright for the first time since 1961-62. - Wednesday's game will be an emotional one for Howard, a fourth-year senior enjoying an All-America-type season. - Wake Forest owns a 16-game homecourt winning streak and is looking to finish undefeated at home for the first time since 1995-96.

Deacons Chasing History, ACC Regular Season Title -- Wake Forest is attempting to finish first in the ACC standings for the first time since 1995... that season, the Deacons were one of four teams who shared the regular season crown with identical 12-4 records... the Demon Deacons have not won the regular season title outright since 1962... that Wake Forest team finished 12-2, won the ACC Tournament and earned the school's only Final Four berth... WFU is the only team to finish fifth or higher in the league standings each of the past 10 years.

A quick look at the Deacons -- Fielding one of the nation's youngest rosters -- four freshmen, three sophomores and senior All-American candidate Josh Howard all average at least 13 minutes per game -- the Deacons have exceeded all expectations. WFU leads the ACC and is 21-4 overall with three wins over nationally-ranked teams (No. 23 Wisconsin, No. 17 Maryland and No. 8 Duke). Statistically, Wake Forest's biggest strengths have been rebounding and free throw percentage. The Deacons lead the nation in rebound margin (+9.9) and rank 15th nationally in free throw percentage (.758). Howard (19.6 points and 8.0 rebounds per game), who leads the ACC in scoring, is one of college basketball's premier players. He is a solid candidate for All-America honors as well as the Wooden, Naismith and Robertson awards. Sophomore forward Vytas Danelius (13.1 ppg. and 7.5 rpg.) is coming off his fourth double-double of the season. Sophomore guard Taron Downey (10.2 ppg., 4.4 apg.), sank four three-point field goals and dished out eight assists last Wednesday at Florida State. Freshman guard Justin Gray (11.6 ppg.), who broke his jaw Jan. 12 and returned to action Feb. 13, has scored in double figures four times in six games since his return. Sophomore Jamaal Levy (7.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg.), who has started the last 15 games, led WFU in rebounding in February. A pair of freshmen reserves -- Trent Strickland (5.1 ppg.) and Chris Ellis (3.1 ppg.) -- have been key to WFU's success. Senior guard Steve Lepore, who is recovering from a ruptured patella tendon, missed the last six games after re-aggravating his knee. Freshman Richard Joyce is a perimeter threat off the bench.

Wake Forest-UNC series history -- - North Carolina leads the all-time series, 146-59. - Wake Forest has won the last three meetings, including a 79-75 win in Chapel Hill on Feb. 2. Josh Howard's 32 points and late-game heroics led the Deacons in that game. - WFU's three-game winning streak in the series is its longest since sweeping the 1969-70 regular season series, then winning the first meeting in 1970-71. - The Deacons have not beaten the Tar Heels four straight times since winning all three meetings in 1962-63, followed by a win in the first meeting of 1963-64. - The Deacons have won five of the last eight meetings. - North Carolina holds a 7-6 series lead when playing in Lawrence Joel Coliseum. - The Deacons and Tar Heels first met during the 1910-11 season. - The Wake Forest-North Carolina series is the fifth-most frequently played series in the ACC (see box at above right). - Last year's meeting in Chapel Hill (Jan. 5, 2002) marked the first time ever that a ranked Wake Forest team played an unranked Tar Heel team. - Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser is 3-0 all-time against North Carolina. - North Carolina's Matt Doherty is 2-4 all-time versus Wake Forest. That includes a loss to the Deacons in the 2000 NIT championship game while coaching at Notre Dame.

Deacon-Tar Heel connections -- - North Carolina assistant coach Doug Wojcik was the starting point guard on the Wheeling (WV) Central Catholic High School team that was coached by Wake Forest's Skip Prosser. That Central Catholic team won the state championship. Prosser later coached Dave Wojcik (Doug's brother), who went on to serve as an assistant coach with Prosser at Xavier. In the UNC media guide, Doug Wojcik lists Prosser and Paul Evans as the two people who had the greatest influence on his playing career. - Wojcik was an assistant coach at Navy in 1997-98 when the Midshipmen lost at Wake Forest, 67-43. - North Carolina assistant coach Bob MacKinnon served as the head coach at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy -- Skip Prosser's alma mater -- from 1997-99. - WFU's Eric Williams was on the same East team in the 2002 McDonald's High School All-America Game with North Carolina's Raymond Felton, Sean May and Rashad McCants. - Wake Forest (seven) and North Carolina (six) combine to have 13 players on their rosters from the state of North Carolina. - WFU's Justin Gray and T.J. Little and UNC's Phil McLamb all call Charlotte (NC) home. - Former Deacon Rodney Rogers now plays for the New Jersey Nets. Former Tar Heel Mike O'Koren is a Nets assistant coach. - UNC's Matt Doherty went 7-3 against Wake Forest while playing for the Tar Heels from 1981-84. - Doherty and WFU media relations staffers Dean Buchan, Bill Newton and Mike Vest all previously worked at the University of Kansas.

Feb. 2: Wake Forest 79, N. Carolina 75 -- Josh Howard had a career-high 32 points, including the go-ahead three-point play with 21 seconds left, as Wake Forest beat North Carolina, 79-75 in Chapel Hill on Feb. 2. The score was tied seven times over a 12-minute second-half stretch. Jawad Williams led the Tar Heels with 22 points.

A statistical comparison between Wake Forest and North Carolina: Category Deacs Heels Record 21-4 15-13 Conference Record 11-3 5-9 Scoring Average 78.8 71.0 Opponent Scoring Average 67.2 70.2 Scoring Margin +11.6 +0.8 Rebound Average 42.5 35.2 Opponent Rebound Average 32.6 39.5 Rebound Margin +9.9 - 4.3 Field Goal Percentage 45.5% 42.1% Defensive Field Goal Percentage 38.8% 42.7% Free Throw Percentage 75.8% 66.4% Three-Point Field Goals Per Game 6.0 8.0 Three-Point Field Goal Percentage 33.6% 33.7% Assists Per Game 14.6 15.3 Turnovers Per Game 15.6 14.6 Blocked Shots Per Game 4.4 4.6 Steals Per Game 6.4 8.5

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