Clutch baskets down the stretch and almost perfect free throw shooting in the game provided the necessary impetus. Taron Downey nailed two three-pointers that opened up a lead FSU could not overcome. From the line, the Deacs missed just one shot converting 11 of 12 attempts.
"Wake finished plays. We did not", said Leonard Hamilton afterwards. Although in position to win the game with many opportunities in and around the basket, FSU just could not get the ball to drop. Hamilton stated Wake had a few more playmakers than the Seminoles and that the ‘Noles are just not to Wake's talent level yet. "They (Wake) are leading the ACC", added Hamilton
Florida State stopped the Deacons on nine straight possessions while trailing by only one point. However nothing would go down as point blank layups missed their mark.
Wake put four players in double figures. Vytas Danelius led all scorers with 17 points with the ACC's leading scorer Josh Howard adding 14. Downey added 12 all on three-pointers. Gray came off the bench also scoring 12 points.
For the Seminoles, Anthony Richardson also added 9.
Obviously that was not enough scoring in the by committee concept Hamilton preaches. Add to the fact that the ‘Noles shot just 29% for the game, their lowest mark of the season.
The drizzle outside the Civic Center apparently put a damper on scoring early on in the game and sloppy play dominated. Both teams combined for 2 of 14 from the floor over the first 4:18. Nate Johnson's three from the right wing and Richardson's three around a double screen at the key gave FSU a 6-0 lead. Wake Forest finally got on the board when Danelius hit a five-footer from the baseline at the 14:36 mark.
Gray, who had just entered the game, gave the Deacons a 7-6 lead. After a couple of lead changes, Howard's 15-footer stretched the lead to 16-11. Johnson closed it with a three-pointer. Pickett tied it at 18 on a coast to coast layup with 5:48 left. Trevor Harvey tied it again at 20 when he was left completely alone under the basket on an inbound play.
Wake rattled off three straight shots from behind the arc beating the Seminoles' zone defense down the court. But, Harvey helped keep the ‘Noles close with a nice drop step baseline move and another on an offensive rebound. Only Josh Howard's two free throws with 1:36 remaining provided the two-point margin, 31-29, for the Deacons at the half.
Harvey picked up in the second where he left off in the first by attacking the basket. Danelius broke the 31-31 tie with two free throws. Twenty seconds later FSU regained the lead, 34-33, since early in the first half when Pickett hit a three-pointer over Danelius. Danelius took very little time in giving the lead back to Wake with a 15-footer.
Howard found himself on the bench at the 15:29 mark after picking up his third foul. Pickett converted both free throws Michael Joiner stole the ball and went the length of the court for the slam-dunk. FSU now led 38-37 with 15:10 to play.
Mike Mathews stretched the lead to three on two free throws. After Chris Ellis banged his way past Richardson, Richardson responded with a mid-range jumper. Danelius closed the score to 42-41 on his nice 10-foot jump shot. That set the stage for Gray.
With the shot clock about to go off, Gray's foot was on the line as he calmly nailed the shot for a 43-42 Deacon lead.
Florida State already not shooting the ball that well went just completely cold as well as sloppy. Fortunately so did Wake Forest. But, Downey canned a three right in front of Wake's bench to make it a 46-42 game with 5:40 left. Pickett answered with a three-pointer.
Wake Forest was also playing sloppy as Howard dribbled the ball off his leg out of bounds. FSU saw its chance to regain the lead clang off the rim when Richardson missed a perfect alley-oop pass. Still playing strong defensively, the 'Noles had two players in the face of Howard as he made it a 48-45 game with 4:00 to play.
Todd Galloway rushed a three ball and Wake made FSU pay when Downey rattled in his forth three-pointer of the game. Another FSU missed three and turnover led to Danelius' offensive putback. FSU trailed 53-45 with seventy seconds remaining.
FSU did make Wake sweat a little when Pickett came around a double screen to hit a three. Richardson corralled another Pickett missed three attempt to bring FSU to within three points at 53-50. FSU called timeout with thirty-eight seconds left.
With time that short, all Florida State could do was foul and hope for the best. That didn't work as the Deacons converted 5 of 6 attempts in the time remaining. The Seminoles did make it interesting with Galloway hitting his only baskets of the game, both three-pointers, in the last twenty seconds.