It was throw back day in Raleigh as NC State (6-3) hosted local North Carolina Central (5-5, 1-0 MEAC) at historic Reynold’s Coliseum Sunday afternoon. Popcorn and hot dogs were just a dollar and posters commemorating the 1983 National Championship team were handed out before and after the game.
But it was a throw back of the NC State teams from the late 2000’s that showed up for most of the second half of State’s 65-60 win.
State started strong, shutting Central out for the first six and half minutes of the game and jumping out to an early 9-0 lead, but State could not pull away from the Eagles, allowing them to hang around until the final horn.
After holding a double-digit lead for most of the game (led 37-27 at the half), the Pack started to get sloppy on both ends of the floor, using an ineffective 2-3 zone for most of the second half on defense while turning the ball over 16 times and shooting a low percentage (37%) on the offensive end.
State allowed the Eagles, who entered the game with the number two scoring offense in the country at almost 89 points per game, to cut the lead all the way down to three in the final minute, but four late free throws from sophomore Scott Wood, who is perfect on the season from the charity stripe, helped the Pack escape with the win.
Wood finished with 19 points, hitting five of his nine three-point attempts in 38 minutes. As a team, the Pack only made seven of their 23 attempts from three point land, and their inability to knock down outside shots has really hurt them so far this season.
State’s lone senior, C.J. Williams, led all scorers with a career-high 21 points. He also pulled down five of the Wolfpack’s 34 rebounds. Junior Richard Howell, who played only 27 minutes due to foul trouble, was the only other State player to score in double-figures, finishing with 11 points and a game-high eight rebounds.
Sophomores Lorenzo Brown and Calvin Leslie both struggled to score, finishing with one and three points, respectively. Brown finished 0-7 from the floor but still managed to quarterback the offense nicely with six of the Pack’s 15 assists.
The Pack has a week off to prepare for their toughest test of the year, as Syracuse will come in to a sold out RBC Center Saturday evening. State pushed Syracuse to the brink last season at the Carrier Dome, eventually falling 65-59 to the then eighth ranked Orange.
The Orange should be the top-ranked team in the country when they get to Raleigh following losses by number two Ohio State to Kansas and then number one Kentucky to Indiana- a team the Pack led by seven late in the second half before falling apart a couple weeks ago.
State’s out of conference schedule has been very tough, but these games turn into learning experiences for a young Pack squad learning how to win under a new coaching staff. The strength of schedule for the Pack (deemed the 18th toughest schedule in the country by Rating Percentage Index), and the six wins, has the Pack at an RPI of 57- that’s higher than at any point all of last season.
The RBC Center should be rocking Saturday, and I expect Coach Mark Gottfried to have the Pack ready to play tough for a full 40 minutes against the Orange, who will be playing their first game this season outside the state of New York.