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Wake Forest Rallies Late To Defeat FSU 69-61

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Josh Howard struggled but still scored17 points Friday to lead No. 9 Wake Forest to a 69-61 victory overFlorida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

Wake Forest, the No. 1 seed in the tournament after winning itsfirst outright ACC title in 41 years, couldn't shake theninth-seeded Seminoles for almost 30 minutes.

But Howard, the ACC Player of the Year, scored on consecutivebaskets in a stretch of five straight by Wake Forest to give theDemon Deacons (24-4) control of the game.

He scored on an off-balance pump-fake in double coverage, thennailed a 12-foot jumper to give Wake Forest a 58-52 lead with 5:51to play - the Deacons first comfortable margin of the game.

Howard finished 7-of-15 from the floor - 0-for-3 from 3-pointrange - and went 3-for-6 at the line.

Freshman Justin Gray had 15 points for Wake Forest, VytasDanelius added 14 and sophomore Jamaal Levy had 12 rebounds.

Tim Pickett scored 17 points for Florida State (14-15). TrevorHarvey added 15, Anthony Richardson had 14 and Michael Joinerscored 10, but none in the second half.

Wake Forest didn't take its first lead of the game untilHoward's free throw made it 40-39 with 13:35 to play.

But the Demon Deacons couldn't shake Florida State. Richardsonscored on a layup and Pickett hit a 3-pointer - and then celebratedthe shot by jawing at television analyst Dick Vitale as he passedhim on the baseline - to put the Seminoles back up 44-42.

Florida State's energy soon ran out.

Coming off a 72-61 victory over Clemson in Thursday night'sfirst-round game, the Seminoles began to tire just as Wake Forestwarmed up. The frantic back-and-forth pace had Florida State'splayers looking haggard by the time Danelius hit a 3-pointer thattied the game at 50 with 9:16 to play.

Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton called a timeout to givethe Seminoles a breather, but there was little stopping Wake Forestout of the break.

The Demon Deacons scored five-straight baskets, beginning with aDanelius dunk, Howard's back-to-back baskets and 3-pointer fromTaron Downey that gave Wake Forest a 63-56 lead with 4:24 to play.

Pickett wouldn't go away quietly, though, hitting a 3-pointerthat cut it to 63-59 with 3:47 left.

After Levy scored on a bank shot for Wake, Pickett got the ballinside to Richardson, who drew a foul and hit both free throws. TheSeminoles then got a steal, but Pickett couldn't convert - hethought he was fouled as he went in for the layup - and FloridaState had to foul on every Wake Forest possession from there.

Gray and Howard then made four consecutive free throws to sealWake Forest's seventh consecutive victory.

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