Johnson, Wake Forest eventually shake NC StateFeb 27, 2009 - 6:03 AM WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Ticker) -- James Johnson's big night helped put away a pesky foe.
Johnson posted career-highs in both points with 28 and rebounds with 18 as No. 14 Wake Forest claimed an 85-78 victory over North Carolina State on Thursday.
Ishmael Smith scored 18 points and Chas McFarland added 15 and eight boards for the Demon Deacons (21-5, 8-5 ACC), who claimed their fifth straight win at home in league play.
However, it has been its play on the road in the Atlantic Coast Conference that has kept young Wake Forest in check since moving to the top of the coaches' poll on January 19, losing four in a row.
One of those setbacks came at Raleigh, as the Wolfpack posted an 82-76 victory on February 11 - their only win against a ranked team.
"I think it's tough in this league to win on the road," Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio said. "There's really good teams in this league. There are really good players and I think there's a tremendous amount of positive energy for the home team. I don't care who you are. If you try to go on the road and win on this league, it's a difficult chore."
The Demon Deacons appeared ready for some payback early, going on a 20-2 run to open up a 39-24 advantage with 4:53 before halftime. Johnson had eight of his 12 first-half points during the run while also grabbing 12 rebounds.
"It was just time for me to come out and show the stuff I've been working on," Johnson said. "I've wanted to be more aggressive lately because I kind of feel like it's hard to contain me. If they put a guy on me I like to just blow by him."
Despite the huge deficit, North Carolina State (15-11, 5-8) did not pack it in, cutting the deficit to 43-35 at the break. It eventually got within 46-44 on Farnold Degand's layup with 15:47 to play.
The Wolfpack would get within two points on four occasions, but could pull any closer in large part due to Johnson.
"He made big plays at crucial times, getting to the basket especially late in the game," NC State coach Sidney Lowe said. "He just played a great game, big on the boards. He wanted the basketball in his hands and he made the play. He is tough to guard out there, he can put it on the floor and he can handle. We just didn't keep him at front long enough."
The sophomore forward hit two free throws to make it 48-44 and slammed home an alley-oop for a 50-46 lead with 14:56 remaining.
Wake Forest later tried to pull away with under nine minutes left, as Smith scored seven points on a 9-3 run that gave his team a 70-61 cushion with 6:14 to play.
NC State, however, did get within 74-71 on a 3-pointer by Courtney Fells with 2:29 left, but Johnson completed a layup off an offensive rebound and dunked off a drive and lob pass from Smith to make it 78-71 with 65 seconds left.
Along with shooting 12-of-16 from the field, Johnson pulled down 15 boards on the defensive end.
"James Johnson's work on the boards in the first half, as well as the second, was just outstanding," Gaudio said. "He grabbed every rebound. He wouldn't let us lose."
Despite his career bests, it was just the latest in a series of big efforts by the 6-9 Johnson, who is averaging 26.0 points and 13.3 rebounds over the Demon Deacons' next three games.
Smith shot 6-of-8 with two 3-pointers to make up for a sub-par effort for Wake Forest leading scorer Jeff Teague.
Teague went 3-of-12 from the floor, missing all three of his 3-pointers, en route to 12 points. He also committed three of the team's 12 turnovers.
Despite the performance of their top scorer, the Demon Deacons shot 52.5 percent (32-of-61).
Tracy Smith had 18 points for the Wolfpack, who dropped to 1-7 against teams in the top 25.
Degand and Ben McCauley added 12 points apiece for NC State, which stayed in the contest by turning Wake Forest's giveaways into 20 points. The Demon Deacons had just six points off turnovers.
- NCAA BB
FINAL 1ST 2ND TOTAL
--- --- -----
NC STATE 35 43 78
WAKE FOREST (14) 43 42 85 FINAL
Feb 26 9:58 PM
- NCAA BB
NC STATE 35
(14) WAKE FOREST 43 HALFTIME
Feb 26 8:50 PM
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