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.

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.

No. 24 Cincinnati beats George Washington 61-56

Troy Caupain
AP Photo
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NEW YORK (AP) Troy Caupain scored 16 points, including the go-ahead three-point play with 1:38 to play, and No. 24 Cincinnati beat George Washington 61-56 on Saturday in the championship game of the Barclays Center Classic.

The fact the game came down to a three-point play was ironic as both teams took 22 3-point attempts and there were times it seemed a 3-point shooting broke out.

Caupain’s traditional three-point play gave the Bearcats (7-0) a 55-54 lead. After a missed 3 by the Colonials (6-1) Octavius Ellis, who chosen the tournament MVP, scored on a tip-in. Patricio Garino scored on a drive for George Washington with 29 seconds left.

The Colonials let the Bearcats pass the ball around and they finally fouled when Ellis touched the ball with 14 seconds to play. Ellis, a 56 percent free throw shooter, clinched his MVP award by making both for a 59-56 lead. Two free throws by Caupain with 6.1 seconds left capped the scoring.

Farad Cobb and Kevin Johnson both had 11 points for the Bearcats while Ellis had nine points and seven rebounds.

Garino had 15 points for George Washington, Tyler Cavanaugh had 13 and Joe McDonald 11.

The Colonials finished 11 of 22 from 3-point range, not bad for a team that came in shooting 27.9 percent (29 of 104) from there. The 50 percent doesn’t look so good when you consider the Colonials made five of their first six 3-point attempts and were 8 of 11 from beyond the arc in the first half. They went 16:42 between 2-point field goals but led 30-27 at halftime.

The Bearcats were 7 of 22 from 3-point range but their advantage came at the free throw line where they were 10 of 12 compared to George Washington’s 3 of 4.


George Washington: The Colonials beat Tennessee in the opening round and they were 3 of 15 on 3s. … George Washington was off to its best start since it was8-0 in 2005-06. … The Colonials finished 10 for 34 from 2-point range.

Cincinnati: The win gives the Bearcats a 13-1 all-time record against George Washington and this was their sixth straight. The last win came on Jan. 31, 1976. … Cincinnati is 7-0 for the fourth time in the last six seasons. … The Bearcats are 51-8 in and have won 24 of 25 in November under coach Mick Cronin. They have won 49 straight games when scoring over 60 points. The 60th point against the Colonials came with 6.1 seconds to play.


George Washington hosts Seton Hall on Wednesday.

Cincinnati hosts Butler on Wednesday.