No. 5 Wake Forest 81 New Mexico 64\ Wake Forest's big man was on the bench, guard Justin Gray had limped off the court with a hyper-extended knee and New Mexico was making a second-half run.
The fifth-ranked Demon Deacons proved a little adversity can be a great motivator.With 6-foot-9, 291-pound center Eric Williams sitting with four fouls, the Demon Deacons' backcourt trio of Gray, Chris Paul and Taron Downey took over and led Wake Forest to an 81-64 victory over the Lobos on Wednesday night.
Paul scored 15 of his 23 points in the second half and Gray scored 17, 11 coming over a 41/2-minute stretch after he shook off a hard fall and returned to the court with the Demon Deacons (10-1) leading 48-45.
"It got me going a little bit," Gray said of the hit he took. "There was a lot of pushing around, so when I got bumped up a little bit, it told me to take my game to another level and to play with higher intensity."
Danny Granger had 24 points and nine rebounds for the Lobos (10-2), who were no match for Wake Forest's three guards and ball-hawking defense. New Mexico shot a season-low 32.8 percent.
Gray and Paul, who combined for nine of Wake Forest's 10 3-pointers, carried the offense every time New Mexico made a run. Downey finished with 16 points, doing most of his damage with 12 in the first half.
"We talked to our three guards and said this game should never get away from us," Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser said. "They made a couple of runs and the place was ready to get loud, but I credit the poise of my players."
New Mexico, playing before its first sellout crowd this season (18,018), twice got within a point early in the second half and aside from Granger had trouble scoring inside even after Williams went to the bench.
"I actually think it helped them because when Williams is in the game, their whole focus is to get the ball inside," New Mexico coach Ritchie McKay said. "With one less scorer out there, Paul and Gray had a green light."
Williams scored just six points - the first time this season he has failed to reach double figures - and didn't return after going to the bench with his fourth foul with 17:11 left in the second half.
While he was in there, Williams and Jamaal Levy dominated inside as Wake Forest outrebounded the Lobos 47-34. Levy had 10 rebounds and Williams eight.
New Mexico stayed close in the first half on Granger's 12 first-half points and nine from reserve Alfred Neale.
Neale's 3-pointer with 13:47 left ended a 4-minute scoring drought for New Mexico and started an 11-4 run by the Lobos. New Mexico took its last lead at 22-21 with 6:51 left in the first half on a layup by Neale.
Wake Forest then went ahead to stay on a 3-pointer by Paul and a jumper by Downey.
A three-point play by Granger got New Mexico within 48-45 with 13:12 left. It was at that point that Gray took over. After teammate Chris Ellis dunked, Gray hit a 3-pointer.
Baskets by Neale and Kris Collins cut Wake Forest's lead to 53-49, but Gray again answered with a 3-pointer and short jumper. Moments later, his fourth and last 3-pointer of the game put Wake Forest up 61-51.
"Coach put me in a situation with the ball in my hands and told me to make plays," Gray said. "When you're in a venue like this, you either create something for yourself or you create something for others. And tonight, I was making some shots."
The game at times was very physical. There was several scuffles and Granger caught an elbow from Wake Forest reserve Chris Ellis in the final minute.
Wake Forest (10-1)
\ Blocked shots: Wake Forest 5 (Ellis 2, Levy, Paul, Williams 1). New Mexico 5 (Granger 4, Chiotti 1).
Steals: Wake Forest 6 (Levy 2, Williams, Gray, Paul, Downey 1). New Mexico 6 (Neale 3, Collins 2, Chiotti 1).
Technical fouls: none.
Officials: David Hall, Larry Spaulding, Bob Staffen.