#1 Wake Forest Advances Past Providence, 79-67

Justin Gray refused to let a shot to his face upset his game, and his second-half shooting protected Wake Forest's No. 1 status Wednesday night.

The top-ranked Demon Deacons survived some hot shooting by Providence's Ryan Gomes at Madison Square Garden, defeating the Friars 79-67 in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT.

The victory sent Wake Forest (4-0) into Friday night's championship game against the winner of Wednesday night's second game between No. 18 Arizona and Michigan.

Gray had to go to the dressing room briefly in the first half after getting hit in the face during a play, but returned to nail three 3-pointers in the first four minutes of the second half. They were interrupted by a spectacular steal by Gomes who went in alone but blew the jam. It was Gomes' only mistake in the opening minutes of the second half. He scored 10 straight points and kept Providence in the game.

Gray, who fouled out with 2:31 to play, finished with five 3-pointers and led Wake Forest with 21 points. Gomes had 24 and Dwight Brewington 23 for Providence.

The game was the 100th for coach Skip Prosser at Wake Forest, and the Deacons looked as if they would make the milestone an easy victory - for awhile. Led by preseason All-American Chris Paul, they scored the game's first seven points and then used a 16-2 run to open a 28-10 lead.

Providence (3-1) got three straight early baskets from Gomes but the Friars were beat down the floor frequently. Eric Williams had seven of his 18 points in the first 20 minutes and Levy even popped outside for a long-range basket from the extended 3-point line. The tournament is being played with an experimental 20-foot, 6-inch 3-point line - 9 inches beyond the normal distance.

The longer distance hardly disturbed Gray, who nailed five of eight from outside the arc.

After trailing by 18, Providence closed the first half with a 10-0 run, shutting out the Deacons for the final six minutes of the half. But the Friars were struggling from the floor, missing 17 of 25 shots. Wake Forest also had shooting trouble, making just 12 of 31 first-half shots.

Providence got as close as four in the second half at 46-42, but Gray nailed two straight baskets to keep Wake safely in front.

Demon Deacon Digest Top Stories