WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Watching shot after shot fail to fall through the hoop became too much for Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser to handle. So he kicked the scorer’s table three times in frustration.
That seemed to do the trick.
Freshman Chris Paul scored a career-high 21 points and Eric Williams added 17 to help the fifth-ranked Demon Deacons overcome a poor shooting night for a 78-63 victory over Clemson on Saturday.
The Demon Deacons (11-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) shot just 40 percent from the field and were just 2-of-13 on 3-pointers, yet still managed their 24th consecutive home victory.
“We practice shooting,” Prosser deadpanned. “We just didn’t shoot the ball well. And in all frankness, we haven’t shot the ball well from 3-point range for a while.”
Wake Forest, which is shooting 35 percent from beyond the arc this season, eventually went inside to pull away for the win by getting 12 points from Jamaal Levy and 10 from Trent Strickland.
The two got plenty of touches and extended playing time when the Deacons had to abandon their three-guard set because of poor shooting.
“It’s not like Halloween — everyone who wears a suit gets candy,” Prosser said about splitting up Paul and guards Justin Gray and Taron Downey. “You have to earn it. It is not written in stone that we are going to play three little guys.”
Vernon Hamilton led Clemson (7-6, 0-2) with 17 points, while Chey Christie scored 16 and Sharrod Ford had 10.
Clemson played much better than it did in its ACC opener, a 73-54 loss at No. 2 Duke.
“I think the cup is both half full and half empty, but I think we have to look at it as half full in that we played better than we did at Duke,” Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. “Our next step has got to be to get an ACC win on our home court in our next game.”
The Tigers showed improvement by forcing Gray and Downey into poor shooting performances. Gray missed his first 11 shots and finished with nine points on 3-of-14 shooting, and Downey was 1-for-6 from the field with one 3-pointer for three points.
“I was really shocked to see Justin and Taron struggle that way,” Williams said. “I think it was a rude awakening that we have to get back into the gym and shoot some more.”
But Paul picked up the slack after Clemson had clamped down on him for most of the game.
He opened with 10 quick points in the first 8:20, but was selective from there. He didn’t start playing aggressive offense again until he hit a 3-pointer with 5:24 to play.
“Everytime I drive and kick it out to Taron or Justin, I am 100 percent sure it is going in,” Paul said. “So when it didn’t, I just had to let the shots come to me.”
By the time Paul did that, Wake Forest was slowly pulling away after several scares from the Tigers.
When Williams picked up his third foul and left the game with 17:19 to go, the Tigers pounced. They had opened the second half by making four of their first six shots and cut Wake Forest’s lead to 39-36 when Strickland was called for a technical and Shawn Robinson made both free throws.
Strickland, who had been knocked down after his driving layup, got up screaming for a foul to earn the technical.
That, and Prosser’s outburst, sparked the Deacons to buckle down for the final stretch and capitalize on Clemson’s sloppy play: The Tigers had 23 turnovers that led to 34 Wake Forest points.
Clemson also went the entire second half without forward Olu Babalola, who was benched for angering Purnell with his reaction to being taken out of the game in the first half.
“He wasn’t very positive when we took him out,” Purnell said. “He wasn’t being very positive on the bench, and if you are not going to be positive on the bench then you can stay there.”
Duke coach said that after winning his second gold medal in men's basketball would be his Team USA finale. That may not be the case anymore.
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