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The Daily Tar Heel

Dawson's Huge Night\Not Enough for Deacons

WINSTON-SALEM -- Wake Forest guard Craig Dawson has a little extra incentive to perform every time he plays against North Carolina.

For one, Dawson wasn't recruited by UNC, the school his uncle and NBA standout Jerry Stackhouse attended.

But Dawson also has other ties to the Tar Heels.

He played AAU basketball with UNC's Brendan Haywood, Kris Lang and Julius Peppers on the Carolina Warriors.

Dawson almost gunned down his friends in baby blue Wednesday night, scoring a game-high 29 points as the Demon Deacons fell to the Tar Heels 80-74.

"I have a lot of friends who play for Carolina, so there's a bit of a rivalry," said Dawson, who set a career high with his 29 points.

"When the ball goes up, we're not friends anymore until that final buzzer sounds."

Dawson, who began the season as Wake's sixth man, earned a spot in the starting lineup for the fifth consecutive game in front of senior guard Robert O'Kelley.

By the end of the first half, he had firmly established himself as the Demon Deacons go-to guy against the Tar Heels.

He went to the locker room with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

Dawson picked up in the second half where he left off. He scored from all over the court -- except from behind the arc. He had his mid-range jump shot going but finished just 1-for-7 from downtown.

"I just felt really good tonight, and my teammates did a great job of getting me the ball," said Dawson, who made 13 of his 19 2-point attempts.

"The 3s weren't falling, so I tried to take it inside and get some easy baskets that way."

The man responsible for stopping Dawson much of the night was Joseph Forte. But Dawson used his 6-foot-5, 205-pound frame to help him get looks against Forte, who is listed at 192 pounds.

Twice in the second half Dawson rebounded his own missed shot and scored. With those garbage baskets combined with layups and assorted jump shots, Dawson got his points in an efficient manner.

So efficient, in fact, that his buddy Lang had no idea he had done so well.

"I didn't know he had that many points," Lang said. "But on our AAU team, Craig Dawson could take over games for us. He's just a great player, and tonight he was feeling it.

"He's such a great player that even if you have a hand in his face, you can't stop him all the time."

But the Tar Heels finally found a way to slow Dawson down. Dawson scored just four points in the game's final nine minutes.

Forte locked down on him, and Wake had nowhere else to go. One man had carried Wake offensively to a five-point lead with eight minutes remaining, but no one else was involved.

"That's not something I want to get into night in and night out, and that's not something he wants either," Wake Forest coach Dave Odom said. "That's a tough way to win games night in and night out."

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It didn't work for Dawson and the Deacs on Tuesday.

That means Dawson will spend today, his 21st birthday, with a smaller smile on his face than he might have had.

"I was excited to come out here and play tonight," Dawson said. "But I would have been happier with the win."