Wake Forest Falls To N.C. State In ACC Tournament

North Carolina State got the best revenge possible - a surprising victory over Wake Forest.

Julius Hodge led a balanced attack with 22 points and Ilian Evtimov added 18 points and seven assists, helping the Wolfpack upset the third-ranked Demon Deacons 81-65 Friday night in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Wake Forest point guard Chris Paul was suspended for the game for punching Hodge in the groin during the teams' previous meeting earlier in the week, giving this early round game the emotion and intensity of a Final Four. The referees seemed to sense that, too, so they made it a point to call touch fouls and to step in whenever there was contact.

In the first half, a technical foul was called on the Demon Deacons bench - apparently on one of the support staff - and later Wake Forest guard Justin Gray left for a bit after getting elbowed in the face by N.C. State's Andrew Brackman. Amazingly, Gray was called for a foul.

Paul sat beside the coaches at the head of the bench, looking very dapper in a three-piece, gold suit. He stood near his teammates during their pregame warmups and often offered encouragement or instruction during the game, but Demon Deacons (26-5) sure could have used him on the court, mostly on defense.

The Wolfpack (19-12) shot 51 percent and consistently beat defenders to the rim on backdoor cuts, with everybody getting a chance in their Princeton-style offense.

Cameron Bennerman, in the starting lineup in place of the injured Tony Bethel (groin), filled up the stat sheet with 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Freshman Andrew Brackman scored 16 points, the first he's been in double figures since January.

At the center of the impressive display was Hodge. Booed by the Wake Forest fans every time he touched the ball early on, the reigning ACC player of the year ran the offense, took open shots and helped N.C. State win the rebound battle.

He and Bennerman both had eight boards - matching the total of Deacons center Eric Williams - and Engin Atsur contributed three steals despite foul trouble. That team effort was more than enough to handle Wake Forest, which was playing without Paul for the first time in his two-year career.

Williams and Justin Gray led the Deacons with 17 points apiece.

Wake Forest took its final lead at 44-41 on a 3-pointer by Gray about 2{ minutes into the second half before Bennerman started a 10-0 run with a powerful dunk on a miss by Hodge. Seconds later, Brackman rose up to slam home a lob pass by Bennerman, then put back another miss by Hodge for a three-point lead.

Finally, Bennerman finished it off with a layup after a nifty bounce pass from Evtimov, and the Wolfpack cruised from there.


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