Accordingly, the Wolfpack repeated the same pattern as their last game against Western Michigan: failing to put away a less talented opponent during a lackluster first half before asserting itself shortly after intermission and coasting to a comfortable victory.
Before No. 23 N.C. State’s eventual 89-68 win over the Spartans, the teams played a first half that saw seven ties and eight lead changes before the Wolfpack managed a seven-point advantage entering halftime. While the Wolfpack shot nearly 60 percent from the field and only committed five turnovers over the opening stanza, it was out-rebounded 18-13 by UNC-G, including eight Spartan offensive rebounds.
However, the Wolfpack (11-2) soon stepped on the gas. A Scott Wood 3-pointer with 18:21 remaining, one of his three for the game, gave N.C. State an 11-point lead that never fell below double-digits the rest of the way.
By the end, five Wolfpack players scored double-digits, led once again by C.J. Leslie. The Holly Springs junior finished with 21 points and 8 rebounds, including an open floor reverse dunk with 15 minutes left that sent the 12,207 at PNC Arena into early New Year’s hysterics. After a sluggish first half, Richard Howell finished with 11 points and 13 boards, his seventh double-double on the season.
UNC-G was led by 6-5 freshman forward Kayel Locke, the first recruit signed by first-year Spartans coach (and former Tar Heel) Wes Miller. Locke, a prep star from Owings Mill, Md., finished with 21 points, including 12 in the first half that helped the Spartans keep pace with the Pack.
When asked how much he knew about Locke prior to the game, Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried gave a blunt answer.
“Not much, and we made him look like an All-American,” Gottfried said. “We didn’t do a very good job taking his left hand away. We just kept saying we’ve got to push him to the right, and we never did it. He played very well; he played inspired.”
Besides Leslie’s reverse jam, a couple of others dunks entertained fans and teammates alike. Scott Wood found rare air early in the first period, and Lorenzo Brown—who finished with 15 points and nine assists—elevated for a one-handed put back of a missed 3-pointer from Rodney Purvis.
Both dunks left Purvis bemused and amused.
“Lorenzo, his bounce comes and goes,” he said. “But I was happy he got that put back … I missed that shot on purpose, too [laughes].”
And about Wood’s jam?
“Scott dunks like an old man,” Purvis said with a chuckle.
At long last, N.C. State opens ACC play this Saturday at Boston College. The Wolfpack returns to PNC Arena next Wednesday, Jan. 9 to host Georgia Tech.