Quick hits and notes following NC State's 90-69 win over Wake Forest Saturday afternoon in the conference opener for both squads, played in front of 16,591 fans at the RBC Center in Raleigh.
Play of the game
Wake Forest hung around for the first 25 minutes of the game. The Deacs started the second half on a 6-0 run to cut the Wolfpack's 10-point halftime lead down to 40-36. After senior power forward/center Tracy Smith knocked down a free throw with 18:05 left in the game, the Pack held a 41-36 edge. Smith missed his second free throw, but Wake Forest knocked the rebound out of bounds.
NC State freshman guard Lorenzo Brown then missed a three-point attempt, but Smith had the offensive board. He missed the put-back layup not once but twice. Off the second miss, NC State freshman forward C.J. Leslie corralled the board and had an open dunk for a 43-36 lead. That play was emblematic of how the game went for Wake Forest.
Highlight of the game
NC State put the exclamation point on a dominating second half when sophomore wing Scott Wood stole the ball from Wake Forest sophomore guard C.J. Harris with 2:08 left. Wood raced down the court one-on-one with Harris, who was stride-for-stride on Wood's right hip. Wood could have gone up for a contested layup, but instead he did a no-look, behind the back bounce pass to a trailing junior wing C.J. Williams. Williams did a tomahawk dunk to give the Pack a 90-61 lead with 2:04 left.
Player of the game
There were many candidates in this game. Williams and Leslie both in particular had outstanding performances. The edge though goes to Smith, who had game-highs 23 points and 11 rebounds in 33 minutes for his first double-double since Jan. 23 last year against Maryland and the ninth of his career. Smith made 10 of 16 shots from the field, and he matched his career-high in scoring in an ACC game that he set last season in the win over Duke on Jan. 20.
Leslie scored 19 points for the second straight contest and added six rebounds in 25 minutes. Williams came off the bench to match his career high he set as a freshman against Virginia with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting. Williams also added seven rebounds and three assists in a season-high 24 minutes of playing time.
Crushing the boards
Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik had some strong and blunt comments following the game about the Deacs' performance on the boards. He labeled Wake's effort as "soft," and the numbers bear that out. NC State outrebounded Wake Forest 47-22, including 20-8 on the offensive glass. NC State had a 25-13 edge in second-chance points.
That is the most lopsided rebounding margin for both teams this year. The Pack has now outrebounded their opponent in 10 straight games after being outrebounded in four of their first six outings. Their previous high for rebounding margin for NC State was 20 against San Diego on New Year's Day. Wake Forest previous worst rebounding margin was negative-12 against Stetson Nov. 12.
Crushing second half
The other story in this game besides the rebounding was the display of dominance in the second half. The Pack outscored Wake Forest 50-39, and the Deacs needed an 8-0 run in the game's final two minutes to make the margin even that respectable.
After Wake Forest cut NC State's lead to 40-36, the Pack would score on 23 of its next 27 possessions, and at one point they made 14 of 16 field goal attempts. NC State shot 58.3 percent overall in the second half, making 21 of 36 shots, and finished at 51.5 percent shooting for the game. After shooting over 50 percent just twice in the first 11 games, NC State has now shot over 50 percent in four straight contests.
Saturday was also the second straight game where NC State had scored 50 points in the second half and a new-season high for points scored. The last time NC State scored 90 points was a 95-93 win over UNC Greensboro Jan. 2, 2007. The Pack had not scored 90 points in an ACC game since Jan. 29, 2006 when they topped Clemson 94-85 in Herb Sendek's final year at NC State.
This was also the largest margin of victory in ACC play since an 81-56 trouncing of Virginia Tech Feb. 18, 2007.
Saturday marked the third time this year that Wake Forest had allowed at least 90 points, and it also matched the Deacs' largest margin of defeat this season. Virginia Commonwealth crushed Wake 90-69 on Nov. 16.
Spotted at the game
There were quite a few former players in attendance. Among those spotted were Julius Hodge, Simon Harris, Andrew Brackman, Chris Corchiani, Damon Thornton and Will Roach.
Also at the game were football players T.J. Graham, a rising senior receiver, and Brandon Barnes, a rising redshirt junior running back. The two represented the football squad as a check was presented for $21,500 for the Toys for Tots charity.
At halftime, Mr. and Mrs. Wuf were spotted in their wedding attire, and for Mr. Wuf that meant a red tuxedo, as the two renewed their vows in a ceremony presided by the Wake Forest "Demon Deacon."
What the win means
NC State improves to 11-4 on the year and 1-0 in the ACC while Wake Forest drops to 7-9 and 0-1 in the conference. This was the first time under Lowe and since beating Miami in the 2005-06 season that NC State won its conference opener. The Pack improves its record in ACC openers to 32-26 and 18-8 in openers played at home.
The Pack owns the series advantage over Wake Forest 133-99. Wake Forest is NC State's oldest rivalry, dating back to the 1910-11 season. NC State is 94-53 in games played in Raleigh against the Deacs, 8-4 in the RBC Center. The Pack has a six-game winning streak in Raleigh against Wake. Lowe now sports a 6-3 record against the Deacs, who have dropped 11 of the last 18 games against State.
Other stats of note
- NC State committed just 10 turnovers, but Wake Forest had just seven. The Pack has had a negative turnover margin in 11 of 15 games this year, including seven in a row. Wake Forest had a 14-12 edge in points off turnovers. - NC State dominated in the paint, outscoring Wake Forest 46-24. - Because of the low number of turnovers, there were not a lot of fast breaks in the game. NC State outscored Wake Forest 12-11 in fast break points. - The Pack's bench was more productive that Wake's, 29-18.