Wake Forest yesterday suspended point guard Chris Paul from playing in Friday's ACC tournament quarterfinal at MCI Center. Paul was disciplined for punching North Carolina State forward Julius Hodge in the groin during the No. 3 Demon Deacons' 55-53 victory in Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday night.
With 12 minutes 48 seconds left in the first half of the regular season finale, Paul hit Hodge in the groin and the reigning ACC player of the year fell to the floor. His older brother, Steve Hodge, walked onto the court to make sure Hodge was all right and yelled at officials as he was escorted off the floor by police. Julius Hodge pointed at Paul as he walked to the Wolfpack's bench.
Chris Paul will sit out Wake Forest's quarterfinal game in the ACC tournament after hitting N.C. State's Julius Hodge, left, in the groin Sunday.
(Karl DeBlaker - AP)
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Officials apparently didn't see the punch and a foul wasn't called. Hodge was called for a technical foul a few minutes later when he shoved Paul after another incident. Paul made the game-winning shot at the buzzer and was pelted with cups of soda as he left the floor at RBC Center.
"I have said for two years that I would not trade Chris Paul for any point guard in the country," Wake Forest Coach Skip Prosser said in a statement released by the school yesterday. "This remains the case. The game of basketball is best played in a certain manner. Chris committed a grave error in judgment Sunday evening. He is contrite and aware that his actions did not reflect the best of Wake Forest and our basketball team."
Paul, who is averaging 14.9 points, 6.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds, will be replaced by senior Taron Downey, who started at point guard before Paul arrived last season. Paul's absence leaves Wake Forest with only two guards -- Downey and senior Justin Gray. The Demon Deacons, the No. 2 seed in the ACC tournament and in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, will play the winner of Thursday's game between N.C. State and Florida State in the quarterfinals.
"I would like to apologize to Julius Hodge, the N.C. State team, Wake Forest fans and my teammates for an incident that I truly regret," Paul said in a statement released by the school. "Sunday night was emotional for me for many reasons and I let my emotions get the best of me. However, that is no excuse for my actions and I fully accept and agree with my suspension."
After the game, Paul said he didn't intentionally hit Hodge and called it a "heat of the moment" thing. But Wolfpack forward Ilian Evtimov said Paul was retaliating for an incident earlier in the game.
"That's as bad as someone in boxing hitting [blow the waist]," Evtimov told the Raleigh News and Observer. "It's one thing to grab and push and be physical -- that's part of the game. But when you take a cheap shot, that defies the rules of basketball, the rules of sport."
North Carolina, the top seed in the ACC tournament, had four players named all-ACC yesterday, including first-teamers Raymond Felton and Sean May. Duke's J.J. Redick was the only unanimous choice, and Blue Devils forward Shelden Williams and Paul also were named to the first team.
Hodge was named to the second team, along with Wake Forest's Gray and Eric Williams, Georgia Tech's Jarrett Jack (Fort Washington) and Miami's Guillermo Diaz. Maryland's Nik Caner-Medley was chosen to the third team, along with North Carolina's Rashad McCants and Jawad Williams, Duke's Daniel Ewing and Clemson's Sharrod Ford (Gwynn Park High).
McCants Is Day-to-Day
McCants, who has missed the last four games with an intestinal disorder, was scheduled to meet with doctors again yesterday. McCants, the Tar Heels' second leading scorer with 15.8 points per game, sat on North Carolina's bench during its 75-73 win over Duke on Sunday and appeared to have lost a lot of weight.
"We really believe we need a week or so" for McCants to regain his strength once he is cleared to play by doctors, Coach Roy Williams said yesterday.
"I have some hope" of McCants playing in the ACC tournament, Williams added, "but it's just hope. It's not based on anything factual."
Gillen Bides His Time
Pete Gillen could be preparing to coach his final game as Virginia's coach when the Cavaliers play Miami on Thursday night. After losing at Florida State, 68-63, on Sunday, the Cavaliers (13-14, 4-12) fell into last place in the ACC standings.
Virginia Athletic Director Craig Littlepage is expected to make a quick decision regarding Gillen's future, and a decision could be announced as early as Monday, according to sources close to the situation. Littlepage is serving on the NCAA men's basketball committee.
Asked how he was handling the situation during a teleconference with reporters yesterday, Gillen said: "I'm just picking a bridge. I've got three bridges. I've got the Brooklyn Bridge. I've got the Golden Gate, and I've got the Sagamore Bridge in Cape Cod, it's a nice place." . . .
N.C. State will be without senior center Jordan Collins, who separated his shoulder with 1:23 to play in the loss to Wake Forest. Collins, from DeMatha High, started seven of 16 ACC games and was averaging 5.9 points and 2.2 rebounds in 16.8 minutes per game. He had averaged 14.3 points in the three previous games before the Wake Forest loss. . . .
Georgia Tech Coach Paul Hewitt said yesterday that he isn't sure whether senior forward Ismail Muhammad will be able to play in Friday's quarterfinal game against Virginia Tech because of tendinitis in his knee. "It's really flared up right now," Hewitt said.