Saturday, Jan. 3 / 2:07 p.m. / Lawrence Joel Coliseum (14,665) / Winston-Salem, NC / JP Sports
Tip-Off: 2:07 p.m.
Television: Jefferson-Pilot Sports. Mike Goldberg (play-by-play) and former Virginia standout Dan Bonner (color analysis) call the action. Beverly Rumley produces.
Radio: Deacon Radio Network (ISP). Stan Cotten (play-by-play) and Mark Freidinger (color analysis) call the action.
Records: Wake Forest is 8-0 after beating visiting North Carolina A&T, 91-67, Tuesday night. New Mexico is 7-3 and riding a five-game winning streak.
Rankings: Wake Forest is ranked 6th in the Associated Press poll and 5th in the ESPN/USA Today poll. New Mexico is not ranked.
Coaches: Wake Forest head coach Skip Prosser (U.S. Merchant Marine Academy '72) is 54-19 in three seasons with the Deacons, 219-97 in 11 seasons overall. New Mexico coach Ritchie McKay (Seattle Pacific '87) is 17-21 in two years with the Lobos, 100-110 in eight seasons overall.
SID Contacts: Wake Forest assistant athletic director/media relations Dean Buchan; New Mexico basketball SID Jay Blackman.
Websites: Wake Forest -- WakeForestSports.com; New Mexico -- golobos.com. The Series: Series tied, 1-1.
Officials: Announced on game day.
On Deck: Wake Forest hosts Brown Tuesday night. New Mexico entertains San Diego Tuesday night.
Red-Hot Lobos Come To Town Saturday
Sixth-ranked Wake Forest, entering the New Year 8-0 after a 91-67 win over North Carolina A&T Tuesday night, hosts streaking New Mexico Saturday afternoon at Lawrence Joel Coliseum (2:07 p.m./JP Sports TV).
The Deacons are at less than 100 percent healthy. Just as sophomore Chris Ellis (broken foot) returned to action for the first time this season, junior Vytas Danelius (ankle), sophomore Justin Gray (ankle) and freshman Chris Paul (left hand) are all nursing injuries. Their status will be updated later this week.
New Mexico, 7-3, may be even better than its record indicates. The Lobos have won five straight games by an average of 20.6 points. Bradley transfer Danny Granger has averaged 20.5 points since becoming eligible Dec. 22.
- Wake Forest scored 91 points Tuesday night and its season scoring average dropped. The Demon Deacons lead the nation in scoring (92.1 points per game).
- The Deacons put their 21-game home court winning streak on the line Saturday. Only four current Deacs were on the roster the last time Wake lost a home game (Feb. 21, 2002 vs. Duke).
- The Lobos will play their first game outside the state of New Mexico. In their only road game of the season, New Mexico played at New Mexico State.
- Wake continues its four-game homestand Tuesday against Brown, followed by a Jan. 10 ACC contest versus Clemson. Following that game, the Deacs play four straight nationally-ranked opponents.
Wake Trainer Remains Busy
Wake Forest head trainer, assistant athletic director Greg Collins, has been one of the most active people on the Deacon staff this season as Wake has suffered more than its share of injuries.
Four different Deacons have missed a combined 11 games with injuries and both numbers could grow this week. Three Deacons -- junior Vytas Danelius (ankle), sophomore Justin Gray (ankle) and freshman Chris Paul (left hand) did not practice Wednesday. All three players are day-to-day, but only Danelius appears doubtful for Saturday's game against New Mexico.
The injuries to Gray and Paul occurred in the Dec. 30 game against North Carolina A&T -- ironically, the same night sophomore Chris Ellis returned from a broken foot to see his first action of the season.
Ellis played 12 minutes in his season debut and now appears 100 percent healthy.
Two other Deacons missed games earlier this season with injuries or illness. Freshman Kyle Visser (ankle) did not play against Indiana on Dec. 2. Freshman Todd Hendley (stomach virus) did not play in the Nov. 29 game at Yale.
Deacons Continue Climb In Polls
Wake Forest climbed to 6th in the Associated Press poll (up from 8th) and to 5th (up from 6th) in the ESPN/USA Today poll this week.
More on Wake in the national polls:
- The Deacons have their highest AP ranking since being ranked 6th on Jan. 8, 2001.
- Wake Forest has been ranked as high as No. 2 (10 times), but has never been ranked No. 1.
- The Demon Deacons, in a two-week span, jumped from 14th to 6th in the AP poll.
- There are four ACC teams in the AP top 10 -- (2) Duke, (3) Georgia Tech, (6) Wake Forest and (9) North Carolina.
- Wake Forest has been ranked in the AP top 10 73 times in its history and 12 times since the Tim Duncan era ended in 1996-97.
- The Deacons have been ranked in the AP poll for 21 consecutive weeks dating back to last season. Wake has been ranked in the AP poll 35 times in 42 weeks under Skip Prosser.
- At this same point last year, Wake Forest was ranked 23rd in the AP poll.
- Wake is ranked 2nd in the Sagarin Ratings, 4th in CollegeRPI.com and 6th by CBS Sportsline.
Wake Vs. Nationally-Ranked Opponents
- Wake Forest is 1-0 against ranked teams this season -- a win at 4th-ranked North Carolina on Dec. 20.
- The Deacons are 4-3 in their last seven games against ranked teams.
Remaining Schedule Is Loaded
Using this week's Associated Press poll as a guide, Wake Forest's remaining regular season schedule is surely one of the nation's most difficult.
Three ACC opponents -- (2) Duke, (3) Georgia Tech and (9) North Carolina -- are ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll. Two other Deacon opponents -- (12) Cincinnati and (19) Texas -- are also in the top 25. Florida State is ranked 25th in the ESPN/USA Today poll. And five more opponents -- NC State, Virginia, Maryland and past opponents SMU and Memphis -- are receiving votes for one or both polls.
How difficult is Wake's remaining schedule? Consider that beginning with a Jan. 13 game at Texas, 15 of the Deacons' final 16 regular season games come against teams either ranked or receiving votes for one or both polls. In fact, beginning with the Texas game, Wake Forest plays eight straight games against teams that are ranked or receiving votes.
Deacons Lead The Nation In Scoring
Wake Forest has been lighting up the scoreboard this season, averaging a lofty 92.1 points per game.
- The Demon Deacons lead the nation in scoring, just ahead of Texas (91.1 ppg.) and North Carolina (91.1 ppg.).
- Wake already has two 100-point games this season and has scored at least 80 points in all but one game.
- Here's an indication of the offensive impact Skip Prosser has had on Wake Forest. In his three years with the Deacons, Wake has scored 100-plus points six times. Before his arrival, the Deacons reached the century mark just five times in the previous 13 seasons.
- With one more 100-point game this season, Wake Forest will have more 100-point games in a season than any Deacon team since the 1982-83 team reached the century mark three times.
- While Wake's scoring average will certainly go down, the Deacons are currently averaging 4.3 more points per game than the school record of 87.8 set in 1975-76.
- The Deacons rank 11th nationally in scoring margin (+20.6).
- The Deacs lead the ACC in two categories -- scoring offense and steals.
Deacons Enter New Year Unbeaten
Wake Forest's 8-0 start has been impressive. But not uncommon.
- The Demon Deacons head into January undefeated for the third time in the past four seasons.
- Wake needs two more wins to become the ninth team in school history to begin the season 10-0.
- The Deacs are one of 12 remaining unbeaten Division I teams and one of two undefeated ACC teams.
- The 8-0 start is the third-best by a Skip Prosser-coached team. His 1996-97 Xavier team and last year's Wake Forest team both started 10-0.
Homecourt Streak At 21
Wake Forest has not lost a home game since Feb. 21, 2002 -- a streak of 21 consecutive wins. The Deacons went 16-0 at home last season and are 4-0 this year.
The 21-game streak ties for the fifth-longest current streak in Division I.
The Wake Forest school record for consecutive home court wins is 25 from 1995-97. That 25-game streak by the Deacons ties for the eighth-longest in ACC history.
Deacon-Lobo Series History
- The all-time series is tied, 1-1.
- The two teams last met in the 2000 postseason NIT at Lawrence Joel Coliseum. The Deacons won that game, 72-65.
- The first meeting between the two teams was a 76-71 New Mexico victory in Albuquerque in 1988-89.
- Wake Forest is 8-4 all-time against teams currently in the Mountain West Conference and has played every MWC team except for San Diego State and UNLV.
- Wake's last game against a Mountain West team was an 84-44 win over Air Force in the second game of the 2000-01 season.
- Deacon coach Skip Prosser has never coached against New Mexico.
Wake Forest-New Mexico Connections
- Deacon junior Jamaal Levy considered attending New Mexico out of high school.
- New Mexico basketball SID Jay Blackman is a North Carolina graduate and was a Tar Heel student-manager.
- Saturday's game offers an interesting statistical match-up. Wake Forest leads the nation in scoring (92.1 ppg.) while New Mexico is limiting opponents to just 59.4 points per game.
- New Mexico ranks 10th nationally in three-point field goals per game (9.3). Wake Forest is holding opponents to just 30.3 percent shooting from behind the arc.
- Under coach Ritchie McKay, who won his 100th career game Monday, New Mexico owns a five-game winning streak. The Lobos won those five games by an average of 20.6 points and never trailed in any of those games.
- The Lobos, 7-3, didn't win their seventh game last season until Jan. 25th.
- The two teams are scheduled to meet next season at The Pit in Albuquerque.
- Including neutral site games, New Mexico has lost 18 straight away from The Pit.
- New Mexico, with 1,199 all-time wins, is looking for its 1,200th victory. Wake Forest, with 1,291 victories, is closing in on 1,300 all-time wins.
- The Lobos have been at full strength since Dec. 21 when transfers Danny Granger (Bradley) and Tony DeVries (Portland State) became eligible.
- New Mexico is 3-4 in its last seven games against ranked teams including a win at No. 2 Arizona on Dec. 21, 1999, halting the Wildcats' 37-game home court winning streak.
Deacons Are A Balanced Bunch So Far
The Deacons are sharing the spotlight this season:
- Five different Deacons average at least 11 points per game and eight players are contributing at least 6.3 points per contest.
- Eight different players have scored in double figures at least twice and four different Deacs have scored 20 or more points in a game. Seven Wake players scored in double figures Dec. 20 at North Carolina.
- Ten different Deacons have made at least one three-point field goal.
- Eight different players average at least three rebounds per game.
- Eleven different Wake Forest players are averaging at least 10 minutes of action per game.
Tickets for the Clemson (Jan. 10), North Carolina (Feb. 7), Cincinnati (Feb. 15) and Duke (Feb. 18) games are already sold out.
Thinner "Big E" Scoring, Not Hacking
Sophomore center Eric Williams, weighs about the same as he did last year (275 pounds), but he has gotten stronger and lowered his body fat. The Wake Forest (NC) native has also re-shaped his game.
Last season as a freshman, "Big E" battled more than just a weight problem. He was foul-prone and inconsistent. This year he is establishing himself as one of the premier players in the ACC. More:
- The 6-9, 275-pound Williams has more than doubled his scoring average from last season (from 8.7 ppg. to a team-high 18.0 ppg.).
- He was named ACC Player of the Week Dec. 22.
- Williams ranks fourth in the ACC in scoring.
- He ranks second in the ACC in field goal percentage (.596).
- Williams ranks 12th in the ACC in rebounds per game (6.3).
- He ranks ninth in the ACC in offensive rebounds per game (2.88).
- The big guy even ranks 11th in the ACC in free throw percentage (.703).
- Williams has started all 39 games of his career.
- He was instrumental in Wake's triple-overtime win at 4th-ranked North Carolina. He hit what proved to be the game-winner in the third overtime and scored 24 points against the Tar Heels.
- Last season foul trouble was a problem as Williams committed a team-high 96 personal fouls and fouled out five times. This season he is committing just over two fouls per game and has yet to foul out.
Williams' Statistics Last Season This Season Points Per Game 8.7 18.0 Rebounds Per Game 4.1 6.3 FG Percentage .547 .596 FT Percentage .621 .703 Steals Per Game 0.7 1.4 Fouls Per Game 3.09 2.75 Games Fouled Out 5 0
Gray Keeps Streak Alive Despite Injury
Guard Justin Gray is one of the toughest players on Skip Prosser's roster. The sophomore has overcome injuries to both ankles to averaged 25.8 minutes per game and hit several big buckets. More on Gray:
- Because of a broken jaw that caused him to miss a month of action last season, he has played in just 31 career games.
- Gray has made at least one three-point field goal in 20 consecutive games. - He scored in double figures in 15 straight games before seeing that streak end Dec. 30. - With 21 three-point field goals in eight games this season, Gray is the second-most prolific three-point shooter in the ACC. Only Florida State's Tim Pickett averages more three-pointers per game.
- His six three-point field goals at SMU (Dec. 15) are the most by any ACC player this season.
- Gray ranks 12th in the ACC in scoring (14.2), second in three-point field goals per game (2.62) and seventh in three-point percentage (.382).
Not Used To Trailing
Wake Forest has trailed in the second half just once this season -- Dec. 20 at 4th-ranked North Carolina. In wins over Elon, Yale and Indiana, the Deacons led wire-to-wire. The Deacons trailed briefly in the first half of wins against Memphis, Richmond, SMU and North Carolina A&T.
Wake's largest deficit of the season was 11 points (8-19) early in the first half of the North Carolina game.
Downey Climbs In Record Books
Junior guard Taron Downey, at his current pace, will have his name in the Wake Forest record books.
Downey's career free throw percentage (.841) is the fourth-highest in Wake Forest history. He is shooting 85.7 percent from the stripe this season, which would rank second in the league if had more attempts to qualify.
He is seven three-point field goals away from becoming the 11th player in school history to make 100 career three-pointers.
With 223 career assists, Downey will become the eighth player at Wake to record 300 career assists.
"Mayor" One Of Nation's Top Rookies
Chris Paul is quickly establishing himself as one of the nation's top freshmen and one of the top point guards in a conference loaded with talented players at that position. Consider:
- Paul leads the nation in steals per game (4.25).
- He ranks third in the ACC and 23rd nationally in assists per game (6.12).
- He ranks seventh in the ACC in assist-turnover ratio (2.33) and is the only freshman to rank in the top 10. He has 49 assists and just 21 turnovers in 256 minutes.
- Paul has been named ACC Rookie of the Week twice (Dec. 8 and Dec. 22).
- His six steals at SMU tied a Wake Forest freshman record held by Rodney Rogers. The six steals tied for the ninth-most every by a Deacon, regardless of class.
- His nine assists at SMU were one short of tying a Wake Forest freshman single-game record. - A consistent player, Paul has at least two steals in every game and he has dished out at least five assists in all but two games.
- Paul is shooting 81.2 percent from the free throw line, which ranks third in the ACC, and he goes to the free-throw line more often than any Deacon.
- He has started every game and leads the team in minutes played (32.0 mpg.).
- The Wake Forest freshmen records for assists (147) and steals (53) are in jeopardy. Paul already has 49 assists and 34 steals.
- The shortest player on the roster, Paul is tied for the team lead in blocked shots with six.
- Among all ACC freshmen, Paul ranks first in assists, steals, free throw percentage and minutes played. He ranks third in scoring and third in rebounding.
- He has made at least one trifecta in each of his last six games.
- Paul is attempting to become the first freshman to lead the ACC in steals since NC State's Chris Corchiani in 1988.
- He is attempting to become the first Deacon player, regardless of class, to lead the ACC in steals since Tyrone Bogues did it three straight years from 1985-87.
Levy Defies His Lanky Frame
At 6-9 and just 180 pounds, Jamaal Levy is a good example of one of Skip Prosser's favorite sayings: "It's now how big you are, it's how big you play."
Levy uses his thin frame and quickness to his advantage to become one of the ACC's best rebounders:
- Levy leads the team and ranks third in the ACC in rebounding at 9.1 boards per game.
- He ranks second in the ACC in offensive rebounds per game (3.62).
- Levy currently averages more total rebounds per game than any Deacon since Tim Duncan in 1997. Throw out Duncan, and Levy averages more boards than any Wake Forest player since Anthony Teachey in 1984.
- He ranks 14th in the ACC in steals per game (1.71).
Deacs One Of ACC's Youngest Teams
Wake Forest may have lost just one starter from last year's 25-6 team, but youth still rules the Deacons.
- There are no scholarship seniors on the Wake roster and the Deacs have just three juniors. Nine of 12 scholarship players are either freshmen or sophomores.
- Wake is the only ACC team with no scholarship seniors on the roster.
- The oldest players on the team are 22-year olds Vytas Danelius and Taron Downey.
- Wake Forest will likely not start a senior this season. The last time the Deacons did not start a senior all season came in 1987-88.
Comparing This Season To Last Season
The biggest question surrounding this year's edition of the Wake Forest basketball team was: How will the Deacons be without Josh Howard?
Certainly, Wake Forest has a different look without the 2003 unanimous ACC Player of the Year. The biggest differences:
Balance -- five players average scoring at least 11 points per game, eight players average at least 6.3 points and the Deacons no longer have just one person to look to during crunch time.
Turnovers -- this year's team takes better care of the basketball, ranking second in the ACC in turnover margin. Last year's team ranked eighth in turnover margin.
Rebounding -- last year's team led the nation, and while this year's team has a +4.8 rebound margin, it hasn't dominated the boards like the 2002-03 squad.
Accuracy -- so far the Deacons are shooting their highest field goal percentage (.492) since 1992.
Defense -- Wake Forest is blocking fewer shots since last season, but is recording nearly five more steals per game.
Strickland Leads Deep Deac Bench
Sophomore Trent Strickland is leading the largest and most talented group of reserves that Wake Forest has had in years.
The Deacon bench combined for 37 points in the Dec. 30 win over North Carolina A&T and for 28 points in the Dec. 20 win at 4th-ranked North Carolina. Wake's bench has outscored the opponent's non-starters in seven of eight games this season.
Strickland (7.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game) is playing the best basketball of his career. He has scored in double figures in each of the last two games, including a career-high 15 points in the Dec. 20 win at North Carollina.
Freshman Kyle Visser (6.3 ppg., 3.3 rpg.) has been a huge surprise. He had career highs of 13 points and eight rebounds in the win at UNC. He has 20 points and 13 rebounds over the last two games.
Freshman Todd Hendley has played in every game in which he's been healthy. He had eight points and six boards Dec. 30 against North Carollina A&T.
Sophomore Richard Joyce and freshman Jeremy Ingram have also seen significant action. The Deacon bench recently got deeper with the addition of sophomore Chris Ellis, who returned to action Dec. 30 after missing the first seven games with a broken foot.
1,300 In Sight
With 1,291 all-time victories, Wake Forest is nine wins shy of reaching the 1,300-win milestone. The Deacons are 1,291-990 all-time.
Better With Time
Wake Forest has improved its winning percentage every decade since the 1960s. In the 60s, the Deacons won just 50.7 percent of their games. That percentage increased to .535 in the 1970s, .537 in the 1980s, up to .666 in the 1990s and is at .709 this decade. In the 1980s Wake won just 34.3 percent of its ACC games, compared to 56.9 percent in the 1990s and 63.3 percent this decade.
Wake Will Retire Howard's Jersey Jan. 29
Wake Forest will retire the jersey of former consensus All-American Josh Howard during a ceremony at the Jan. 29 game against Maryland.
Howard, currently a rookie with the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, has confirmed that he will attend the ceremony at Lawrence Joel Coliseum.
In 2003, Howard enjoyed a remarkable senior season. He was the first unanimous selection for ACC Player of the Year since NC State's David Thompson in 1975. Howard, a consensus first team All-American last season, is one of just five players in the history of the ACC to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists, 200 steals and 100 blocked shots. He led Wake Forest to a 25-6 record in 2003 and the Deacons won the ACC regular season title for the first time in more than 40 years.
"I am thrilled for Josh and his family," Prosser said. "This is a wonderful tribute and especially noteworthy as Josh is from Winston-Salem. For Josh to accomplish all of the terrific things he did on the basketball court as well as to earn his diploma is an honor not only for Josh but for Wake Forest University. His leadership and example of courage in his senior season, as he led his teammates to the ACC regular season championship, should always be remembered by those who love Deacon basketball."
Howard's jersey will be the 10th to be retired at Wake Forest and the first since Tim Duncan in 1997. Other Deacons to have their jerseys retired: Tyrone Bogues, Skip Brown, Len Chappell, Randolph Childress, Charlie Davis, Rod Griffin, Dickie Hemric and Rodney Rogers.
The jersey retirement ceremony will take place at halftime of the Jan. 29 Wake Forest-Maryland game, scheduled for 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
Downey Made Remarkable Recovery To Lead Deacons To Season-Opening Win
Junior guard Taron Downey was expected to play sparingly -- if at all -- in Wake Forest's season opener Nov. 13 against Memphis in Madison Square Garden.
After all, just eight days earlier, Gray had an emergency appendectomy. He took part in just one practice and avoided all contact drills prior to the team's departure to New York. Freshman Chris Paul started in Downey's spot at point guard.
When sophomore guard Justin Gray got into foul trouble, Downey was inserted into the game. Coach Skip Prosser continually consulted with Downey on his condition and the junior ended up playing 29 minutes.
Downey scored a career-high 20 points, made 4-of-7 three-point field goals and he added five assists, five rebounds and a blocked shot. For his efforts, he was named Coaches vs. Classic game MVP.
A chronological look at Downey's week:
Nov. 4 -- Downey began feeling poorly and had difficulty sleeping.
Nov. 5 -- After consulting with head trainer Greg Collins, Downey's blood was tested. Later that night, an appendectomy was performed.
Nov. 6 -- Downey was released from the hospital.
Nov. 10 -- Downey dressed out for practice but limited only to shooting.
Nov. 11 -- Downey went through a full practice, although avoiding contact drills. Nov. 12 -- Team takes a turbulent flight to New York.
Nov. 13 -- Downey comes off the bench to play 29 minutes, score a career-high 20 points, make four three-point field goals, dish out five assists, grab five rebounds and block one shot.
Wake Forest has won 13 consecutive games played in the month of December, with its last loss coming at St. John's on Dec. 22, 2001.
Deacons Making It Tough To Shoot
Wake Forest has held all eight opponents to less than 50 percent shooting this season. Dating back to last season, the Deacons have held 10 straight opponents to less than 50 percent.
Five of Wake's opponents this season shot less than 40 percent.
If They Play Like Dad...
Wake Forest has played against the sons of several great players this season:
On Dec. 20, Wake Forest played North Carolina and sophomore center Sean May, the son of former Indiana All-American and Olympian Scott May.
On Dec. 2, Wake Forest hosted Indiana and Hoosier freshman Patrick Ewing, Jr. Ewing, of course, is the son of the former Georgetown and New York Knicks great. The younger Ewing was a teammate of Wake Forest's Chris Ellis back in Marietta, Ga.
On Nov. 29, Wake Forest played Yale and Bulldog guard John Shumate. Shumate is the son of the former Notre Dame and NBA standout by the same name.
Wake Forest's own Chris Ellis is the son of former Tennessee and NBA standout Dale Ellis. Last season Wake played against Moses Malone, Jr., who scored 18 points for South Carolina State.
Wake Signs One In Early Signing Period
Cameron Stanley, a 6-7 senior at Raleigh Millbrook High School, signed a letter-of-intent to play basketball at Wake Forest, Demon Deacon head coach Skip Prosser confirmed November 19.
Stanley averaged 21.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 2.0 steals per game as a junior in 2002-03 while leading Millbrook to a 26-5 record. He was a finalist for North Carolina's Mr. Basketball, he earned a spot on the all-conference team and he emerged as one of the nation's top prospects at the ABCD camp in Teaneck, N.J.. Stanley was also invited to USA Basketball's Youth Development Festival in Colorado Springs, Colo. As a sophomore, Stanley averaged 19.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
The current Wake Forest roster includes no scholarship seniors. Assuming the roster remains intact, Stanley will be one of nine North Carolina natives on the 2004-05 Deacon roster.