WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) -- For the second straight night, Wake
Forest seemed unable to protect its big lead or put the game away.
And just as before, the 18th-ranked Demon Deacons did enough to
Eric Williams had 19 points and Trent Strickland had 18 points
and 11 rebounds, helping Wake Forest hold off George Mason 83-78 in
overtime Friday night in the second round of the 2K Sports College
Justin Gray added 17 points for the Demon Deacons (2-0), who
blew a 19-point lead in the second half before finally earning
their 18th straight home win. Wake Forest advanced to face Florida
in next week's semifinals in New York.
The win followed Thursday's 78-64 win against Mississippi Valley
State, during which the Demon Deacons led by 14 in the first half
before the Delta Devils rallied to tie it midway through the
"We've got four guys trying to move into whole new roles and
that can be frustrating at times," coach Skip Prosser said. "We
as coaches had the choice to play in this tournament, to play good
teams and test our abilities early on. I think we're learning early
what we need to work on later in the season."
Prosser won't have to look far. Wake Forest appeared in control
before George Mason (1-1) turned to fullcourt pressure, fueling a
16-6 run over the last 6 minutes to erase a 65-55 deficit and force
The Demon Deacons committed 15 of 20 turnovers after halftime,
with Gray -- an all-conference shooting guard charged with replacing
all-America Chris Paul at point guard -- committing 10. It was the
most turnovers by a Wake Forest player in more than six years.
But the Demon Deacons -- who followed a strong first half with
shaky play after the break -- finally pushed ahead with free throws.
They managed only one field goal in overtime, but went 10-for-13
from the line, including 6-for-6 in the final 22.2 seconds.
"We've got to learn to come out with fire, some intensity,"
said Williams, who shot 8-for-11 but got just three shots after
halftime. "We've got to play 40 minutes -- we're still that 25- or
30-minute team, then all of a sudden, we're facing pressure at the
"I think we're getting used to letting teams come back and give
everybody a show," he said with a grin. "It's driving everybody
crazy. We'll work on it, and hopefully when we get teams down,
we'll be able to finish it."
The 6-foot-9, 280-pound Williams, who hit 10 of 12 shots
Thursday, went 18-for-23 for the two games. Strickland's
back-to-back double-doubles made him the MVP of the Winston-Salem
bracket of the 16-team tournament.
Williams scored the only basket to open the extra period, then
hit a free throw for a 74-73 lead. He missed the second, but
Strickland tipped the rebound out to Gray, who was fouled and
knocked down two more for a 76-73 lead with 3 minutes left.
The Demon Deacons clung to a 77-75 lead when Michael Drum,
Harvey Hale and Gray hit six more free throws to close it out.
Strickland also added a key steal with the team holding a
three-point lead with 36 seconds left.
Tony Skinn had 23 points to lead George Mason, which shot 57
percent in the second half but just 2-for-9 in the overtime.
"It is very difficult coming that close to victory, that close
to beating an ACC team at their homecourt," George Mason coach Jim
Larranaga said. "It's very painful right now."
Wake Forest, which shot 66 percent in the opener, shot 60
percent Friday and played improved defense to take a 15-point
halftime lead that grew to 50-31 on Gray's jumper with 16:57 to
"I thought we had the game secure, but we got a little relaxed
and our defensive intensity wasn't at its highest peak, and they
took advantage of it," Strickland said.
George Mason's fullcourt pressure soon forced a stretch of five
straight turnovers and took Williams out of the game after his
strong first half. By the time Lamar Butler hit a pull-up jumper in
transition, George Mason led 69-68 with 2 1/2 minutes left.
"I'm a basketball player, and I don't like it when somebody
gets in my space," said Butler, who scored 18. "You could see it
affecting them in the second half. They were kind of rattled."
Chris Ellis answered with a 3-pointer on the next possession,
and Wake Forest had a chance to win it with the score tied with 7.8
seconds left in regulation. Strickland missed a tough shot before
the horn, sending the teams into overtime tied at 71.