Demon Deacons Rout Florida State, 87-48

No one is more respected by his teammates than Wake Forest's Taron Downey, a senior who willingly stepped out of the starting lineup when Chris Paul burst on the scene last season as a freshman.

That's why the Demon Deacons wanted so badly to give Downey a victory over Florida State, and along with it, a bit of closure for one of the most embarrassing moments of his career.

"I think it was in the back of everybody's mind," center Eric Williams said.

Justin Gray scored 20 points, Williams had 15 points and a career-high 14 rebounds and No. 6 Wake Forest avenged a heartbreaking loss earlier in the season by routing the Seminoles 87-48 on Saturday.

Downey ran his streak of 3-pointers to six before finally missing and finished with 14 points for the Demon Deacons (21-3, 9-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who lost in overtime at Tallahassee three weeks ago. In that one, he missed a free throw with less than a second left in regulation that would have won it, a lost opportunity that he had a difficult time forgetting.

"I still felt a little grudge against them," he said. "It was very hard. I was losing sleep, so I'd come in the gym late at night and shoot free throw after free throw. I don't ever want to feel like that again."

No worries. With the added motivation of easing Downey's pain - not to mention simply getting even with Florida State - Wake Forest dominated almost from the start.

Von Wafer had 16 points for the Seminoles (11-13, 3-8), who tied it at 17 midway through the first half before their troubles began. They couldn't hold on to the ball, and when they did, shots that had been going in clanged off the rim. With that, the Deacons got their vaunted running game going.

"I thought we had opportunities that we didn't make, and when we didn't make those opportunities, they made us pay," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said.

Trent Strickland converted a pass from Gray into a layup, the start of a 31-11 run to close the half. Florida State was 1-of-11 at one point and had 11 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, while Wake Forest got points on 11 of 12 possessions to take control.

"I think we allowed our offense to detract from our defense," Seminoles guard Jason Rich said. "We missed a couple of shots, and they kind of got the momentum going."

Downey made it 39-20 with a 3 and an easy basket after a steal, forcing a timeout by Hamilton. Adam Waleskowski momentarily stopped the drought with a layup, and Paul was called for a charge on the other end to give the ball back to Florida State. That was Paul's second foul of the half, and he left for good with 4:53 left.

The Deacons hardly missed him. Jamaal Levy and Gray each made two free throws, Strickland slammed home a putback and Downey swished another jumper from beyond the arc to increase the margin to 48-24. Four points just before the break by Wafer kept Florida State within 20.

It didn't matter. After Alexander Johnson started the second half with a free throw for the Seminoles, Wake Forest removed any doubt about the outcome with eight straight points, including a beautiful fast-break basket by Gray. He faked a behind-the-back pass to Levy to completely fool Wafer, then cruised in for a layup.

"We just didn't match Wake Forest's emotion, their physicality and their aggression," Hamilton said. "It's tough enough to compete when you give it all you have."

Strickland added 10 points and Paul finished with eight points, seven assists and seven steals. But this one was for Downey.

"He is one of the most selfless young men I've ever coached in thirty-something years of teaching and coaching," Wake Forest's Skip Prosser said. "I don't know if there's any person on our team who their teammates pull harder for than Taron Downey."

Rich scored 11 points for the Seminoles, who have lost four straight since ending a 26-game road losing streak in the ACC by beating North Carolina State. They shot only 35 percent against Wake Forest, and their struggles were epitomized by Al Thornton.

He had 26 points in the upset of the Deacons, but fouled out of the rematch with about 9 minutes left with only four points.

"We just wanted to come out and show everyone in the nation that we can play defense," Downey said. "We're starting to see what it can do for us now. It will take us far in March if we keep playing defense like I know we can."

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