Richard Howell

No. 14 NC State makes needed plays late to beat Clemson, 66-62

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Just three days after having one of those games that many ACC fans have become accustomed to No. 14 NC State having, the Wolfpack nearly lost their second consecutive game.

But that didn’t happen thanks to a big three-point play from Richard Howell and 21 points off the bench from freshman T.J. Warren. Back-to-back turnovers in Clemson’s final two possessions sealed the Tigers’ fate, as NC State held on for the 66-62 victory.

Three Wolfpack starters scored 11 points apiece with Howell grabbing 12 rebounds in addition to his 11 points to keep NC State (15-3, 4-1 ACC) within a game of first-place Miami in the loss column.

Devin Booker was unstoppable at times for the Tigers, scoring a game-high 27 points on 13-of-18 shooting and grabbing six rebounds. Rod Hall added 16 for the Tigers, who drop to 2-3 in ACC play (10-7 overall) and saw their two-game conference win streak come to an end.

NC State looked to be well on their way to an emphatic victory following their loss at Maryland on Thursday night as they scored the first ten points of the game (Rodney Purvis scored six of the ten). But Mark Gottfried’s team allowed the Tigers to hang around, with Booker proving to be a very difficult matchup for Howell and C.J. Leslie inside.

After a Milton Jennings three-pointer tied the score at 57 with 2:23 left in the game, Howell would give NC State the lead for good on a three-point play with 1:55 remaining.

A big question for the Wolfpack going forward has to be whether they can duplicate their Sweet 16 run of a season ago with essentially a six-man rotation. Warren outscored the Clemson reserves 21-4 in 25 minutes of action, with Tyler Lewis (six minutes) and Jordan Vandenberg (four) playing ten minutes combined.

That bench minute distribution has been commonplace for NC State, and as long as the starters don’t get into early foul trouble players such as Howell, Leslie, Lorenzo Brown and Scott Wood will be on the floor (Howell is the only member of that quartet not averaging at least 32 minutes/game).

Should the shallow bench be a concern for NC State as they get closer to March? As long as everyone remains healthy they should be fine, but the Wolfpack aren’t operating with the greatest margin for error either.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Some conference matchups play out before football

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, reacts after scoring a basket against Utah during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Oregon defeated Utah 77-59. (AP Photo/George Frey)
(AP Photo/George Frey)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Utah at No. 16 Oregon, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview:

Utah suffered one of the worst losses I’ve seen in a while on Thursday night, when Brandon Taylor, for some unknown reason, decided to foul an Oregon State player firing up a half court prayer at the buzzer. The Utes, who are arguably the second-best team in the Pac-12, will look to bounce-back on Sunday against the best team in the Pac-12, No. 16 Oregon at 4:00 p.m.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. No. 12 SMU will attempt to stay atop the American standings as they travel to South Florida. While the Mustangs won the first matchup between these two teams at home by 14, they’ve dropped their last two games on the road.

2. A few more American contests are going down as East Carolina travels to UConn and Houston heads to Tulsa. The game between the Cougars and Golden Hurricane is especially interesting because both teams are sitting two games back of SMU and trying to make a move on the postseason.

3. No. 5 Iowa continues the soft part of the schedule as they face Illinois on the road. The Hawkeyes posted recent easy victories over Northwestern and Penn State and will be heavily favored again on Sunday.

4. Could be an intriguing game as No. 17 Miami travels to Georgia Tech. Although the Yellow Jackets aren’t a major contender in the ACC, they’ve been tough this season, especially at home. The Hurricanes fell victim to Georgia Tech last season while they were ranked by Marcus Georges-Hunt has to get back on track after a recent slump for that to happen.

5. There is an Atlantic 10 game that will be featured on NBCSN on Sunday: Saint Louis at St. Bonaventure (2:00 p.m.).

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Sunday afternoon.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.