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NCAA MEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

Wake Forest Sidesteps Upset

Paul scores 29 points and the Demon Deacons defeat pesky Manhattan, 84-80.

March 21, 2004|Don Markus | Baltimore Sun

RALEIGH, N.C. — Chris Paul and Luis Flores took different roads to Saturday's second-round NCAA tournament game in the RBC Center, but Wake Forest's freshman point guard and his senior counterpart from Manhattan College each wanted to wind up in the same destination.

Paul will go to Continental Airlines Arena for the Sweet 16 in the East Rutherford, N.J., regional as a result of his performance against the Jaspers. Paul scored 29 points, including seven of his team's last 11, to help the fourth-seeded Demon Deacons survive a huge scare from the region's No. 12-seeded team.

Wake Forest won, 84-80, but not before the little team from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference took the game into the final, frantic minute in which Paul found Trent Strickland for a wide-open dunk that sealed the victory with 10 seconds to go.

The play developed after Manhattan's Peter Mulligan nearly stole the ball from Paul and helped tie him up, only to have the possession arrow pointing in favor of the Demon Deacons.

There were 13.6 seconds left and Wake Forest had only five seconds left to shoot.

After a timeout, Paul took the inbounds pass and found Strickland. "I saw that he was open," Paul said later. "I probably took one extra blink because he was so wide open."

With that blink, Manhattan's season was over. The Jaspers were paying so much attention to Paul that they neglected to see Strickland go from setting a screen on the baseline to moving toward the basket.

Two Manhattan players, sophomore point guard Kenny Minor and senior center David Holmes, flew at Paul in the corner. In an instant, which is all is seems ever to take with Paul, the Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the year whipped a pass to Strickland.

"We were so worried about Paul because he had such a great game," said Minor, who made two three-point baskets to fuel Manhattan's rally from a 48-35 deficit at halftime. "We had a mental lapse."

The victory enabled Wake Forest to advance to the round of 16 for first time since 1996 -- Tim Duncan's junior season -- and set up a much-anticipated matchup between Paul and Jameer Nelson of Saint Joseph's.

Flores, a senior who started his college career at Rutgers, had 20 points.

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