Demon Deacons continue remarkable season

Updated: January 30, 2008

Chuck Burton/AP Photo

Ishmael Smith's jumper with three seconds left gave Wake Forest the win over Miami.

Key Shot

Wake Forest is in a place Dino Gaudio didn't think was possible prior to the season: in contention for third place in the ACC.

Just look at the ACC standings. After Tuesday's 70-68 buzzer-beating win over Miami, the Demon Deacons are one game behind third-place Boston College in the loss column, bottled up with three-loss teams Virginia Tech, Clemson, Georgia Tech, NC State and Maryland.

"We could be there, right there," Gaudio said by phone late Tuesday night. "We've got three league wins, and two of them are at the buzzer."

The team's other buzzer-beating victory came over Virginia Tech in December. And Wake Forest nearly upset Clemson last week on the road, losing by five in overtime.

If the Demon Deacons can steal a road win at NC State on Sunday, they will come home for games against surging Georgia Tech (Feb. 6) and disappointing Virginia (Feb. 9) before going to Florida State (Feb. 14) and coming home for Duke (Feb. 17).

It's not a reach to think Wake Forest (13-6) could be a top-five ACC player by the time it faces the Blue Devils.

"It's early in the process, but if we do that, I would be so proud of these kids because of what these kids have gone through," said Gaudio, who took over for his good friend Skip Prosser after the coach died suddenly of a heart attack July 26.

The Demon Deacons beat Miami without third-leading scorer L.D. Williams, out with a broken right hand suffered in the loss at Clemson. Gaudio said losing Williams hurts the team defensively and emotionally.

"It would be really satisfying if these guys keep doing what they're doing," he said.

The Demon Deacons are led by freshman James Johnson from Wyoming. Johnson continues to be one of the best gets of the Prosser-Gaudio recruiting efforts. Assistant Pat Kelsey, a University of Wyoming player under Joby Wright, also should get plenty of credit.

"Oh my goodness, James Johnson has been terrific," Gaudio said.

Johnson, who is averaging 14.7 points a game, scored only nine points against Miami. The Demon Deacons leaned heavily on Jeff Teague, another freshman, who scored a career-high 27. Ishmael Smith hit the winning jumper with three seconds left.

Wake Forest doesn't have a lot on its nonconference resume, having lost to Vanderbilt, Georgia and Charlotte on the road. The BYU win at home was significant at the time. But the reality is, if Wake Forest finishes in the top four or five in the ACC, the Demon Deacons should be celebrated for quite a season, regardless of whether they make the postseason tournament in March.

Key Notes

Tennessee won 93-86 at Alabama on Tuesday night for just the second win in the Volunteers' past 18 trips to Tuscaloosa. The only other win came Jan. 28, 1998 -- 10 years and one day before this meeting.

Will Thomas of George Mason had 21 points and 15 rebounds against VCU for his 22nd career double-double, but it was the first time he had at least 20 points and 15 rebounds. The Patriots beat VCU 63-51, and they are 8-2 at home when Thomas records a double-double.

NJIT lost 72-54 to Loyola (Md.), and the Highlanders' beat(ing) goes on. They are 0-22 this season, losing by an average of 22.1 points per game. There is a silver lining, however. Last season, the final Division I team to record a win was Iona, which did so in its 23rd game of the season after an 0-22 start. The Gaels got their first win of last season on Feb. 3 at home against Rider. NJIT will play its next game Feb. 2 at home against Utah Valley State.

Derek Wright of Austin Peay eclipsed his career high by a whopping 19 points when he scored 43 points in the Governors' 121-116 triple-overtime loss at Southeast Missouri State. His previous career high was 24 points, scored earlier this season in a win at Belmont. Wright also tied his career high with seven steals.

• Before Tuesday, Southeast Missouri State had played in five multi-overtime games since the 1996-97 season and had lost all five -- but none of them had gone to a third extra session. Jaycen Herring (29 points) and Kenard Moore (28 points) recorded career highs for the Indians.

• Marquette's Wesley Matthews was 4-of-4 from behind the arc in the Golden Eagles' 62-54 win over South Florida. The four made 3-pointers were a career high, and it was the third time in his career he was perfect from long distance while making more than one attempt. Marquette is 3-0 in those games.

Leon Williams of Ohio recorded his 36th career double-double (22 points and 12 rebounds) in the Bobcats' 62-47 win over Central Michigan.

Colorado State made 14 3-pointers in its home game against San Diego State. In the past 12 seasons, the Rams have made 14 or more 3s in five games. They are 1-4 in those games, including the 83-82 loss to the Aztecs on Tuesday night.

Nikola Stojakovic had a career-high 14 assists in Morehead State's 80-68 win over Tennessee Tech. It was the sixth time in his career the senior reached double digits in assists, and the Eagles are 6-0 in those games. In this game, however, Stojakovic poured in 13 points -- also a career best.


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On Tap For Wednesday

• Cincinnati at West Virginia, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
• No. 1 Memphis at Houston, 8 p.m. ET
• No. 2 Kansas at No. 24 Kansas State, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN Full Court)
• No. 18 Vanderbilt at No. 22 Mississippi, 8 p.m. ET
• No. 10 Texas at No. 23 Texas A&M, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

For the full schedule, click here.

Top 25 Scores From Tuesday

• No. 8 Tennessee 93, Alabama 86
• No. 16 Marquette 62, South Florida 54

For all scores, click here.

Inside RPI Daily

Here is a breakdown of the top 10 teams in the Inside RPI Daily.

• No. 1 Tennessee
• No. 2 Kansas
• No. 3 Memphis
• No. 4 North Carolina
• No. 5 Duke
• No. 6 Michigan State
• No. 7 Arizona
• No. 8 Georgetown
• No. 9 Drake
• No. 10 Xavier

For all the Inside RPI Daily numbers, click here. Insider

Tennessee tops Alabama in Tuscaloosa

Bracketology

No. 1 Seeds
Duke
Kansas
Memphis
North Carolina

No. 2 Seeds
Georgetown
Tennessee
UCLA
Washington State

For the full field of 65, click here.

Southeast Missouri State wins triple-OT thriller

Inside The Blog

By Kyle Whelliston

This weekend, as the American-style football season culminates in the desert after two weeks of Super build-up, an even bigger event will be taking shape in secret laboratories in Bristol and Charlotte. I'm talking an event so big that it requires three entire weeks of hype. It's time for BracketBusters VI, the Über-Bowl of mid-major college basketball, which will take place this year on Feb. 22 and 23.

From a field of 100 teams, 50 were preselected last summer as home teams, and the other half will take to the road (the rules of the event dictate that the game must be returned within two years). Next Monday, ESPN will announce 14 televised matchups, and times and network assignments will be revealed for the TV games on Feb. 11. ESPN will broadcast six games on ESPN2, five will be on ESPNU, one will be on ESPN Classic and two will be on the broadband-only ESPN360.com. The other 36 non-televised matchups will be announced on Tuesday.

Which small-conference teams are you likely to see on television at the end of this month? Who could use the extra at-large consideration or an NCAA seeding bump a solid win over a fellow standout mid-major could provide? Let's take a look at a few of the early candidates as selection Monday approaches.

To read more of Whelliston's blog, click here. Insider

Leaders

National team scoring leaders:
1. VMI 93.3 ppg
2. North Carolina 91.4 ppg
3. Duquesne 86.0 ppg
4. Duke 85.2 ppg
5. Texas State 84.6 ppg

National team field-goal percentage leaders:
1. Boise State 51.9%
2. Kansas 51.6%
3. Georgetown 50.6%
4. UNC-Asheville 50.5%
5. Utah State 50.3%

For all the stats, click here.