Josh Howard flirted with leaving school early for the NBA, the same way five other Atlantic Coast Conference players did a season ago. A leg injury changed his mind.
Howard, coming off a career-best 32 points over the weekend, scored 20 of his 24 in the second half last night as No. 14 Wake Forest beat visiting North Carolina State, 73-58.
"No telling where I would be if I went last year," said Howard, who is having an all-American type of season. "All things happen for a reason. I took everything in focus when I stayed and I have a chance to graduate in May -- then I'll have a chance to make it to the next level."
Howard has certainly taken his game to the next level.
He's averaging 23 points in eight ACC games as the Demon Deacons (16-2, 6-2) secured their best start in the ACC since going 7-1 in 1997.
The Wolfpack (12-6, 5-3) dropped into a third-place tie in the ACC with Duke at the halfway point. The Wolfpack led by four at halftime, but missed its next nine three-pointers and finished 6 for 26.
Howard was 8 for 13 from the field, 7 of 7 from the foul line and added 12 rebounds as Wake Forest improved to 12-0 at home.
"When the game hung in the balance he went to another level and just made some really nice plays," N.C. State Coach Herb Sendek said of Howard.
"He's been our bell cow," Wake Forest Coach Skip Prosser added about his star. "He has tremendous passion and he has an abhorrence of losing and that's had a ripple effect on our team. He doesn't like to talk about it much, but he raises the level of our play with his actions."
* ARIZONA 88, WASHINGTON 85: Salim Stoudamire scored 25 points, including a big three-pointer late in overtime, and Channing Frye had 24 points and 12 rebounds as the No. 2 Wildcats survived a scare in Seattle.
The Wildcats (17-2, 9-1 Pac-10) beat Washington (8-11, 3-7) for the 12th time in the last 13 meetings, but they had to sweat this one out in front of a capacity crowd of 10,000 raucous fans eager for an upset.
Frye got free for a layup with 20 seconds to go, giving Arizona a 86-84 cushion. But the dramatic outcome wasn't settled until an insurance free throw in the closing seconds by Rick Anderson.
Washington's Nate Robinson matched a career high with 19 points, while Curtis Allen scored 15. Luke Walton scored 13 points, becoming the 32nd Arizona player to score 1,000 points in his career.
* OREGON 79, STANFORD 64: Luke Ridnour scored all 23 of his points in the second half and extended his free throw streak to a school-record 43 in a row to lead the host Ducks over the No. 25 Cardinal. Ridnour sat for the final 18:03 of the first half after picking up his second foul in 32 seconds. He came back to help the Ducks (16-5, 6-4 Pac-10) stop Stanford's four-game winning streak. The Cardinal is 16-6, 7-3.