It was “pandemonium” Sunday when N.C. State earned its first NCAA tournament bid since 2006. A minor celebration might be needed to toast its first Big Dance win since then, too.
The Wolfpack knocked off 6-seed San Diego State 79-65 on Friday, earning a trip to the round of 32 thanks to some impressive shooting and balanced scoring.
Junior forward Richard Howell led all scorers with 22 points, but was supported ably by Lorenzo Brown (17), C.J. Leslie (15) and Scott Wood (10). The Wolfpack (23-12) found plenty of room to run and get into its offensive sets, ripping through the Aztec defense time and again.
“We knew we needed runs,” Brown said. ” Coach told us it’s always an up‑and‑down basketball game and don’t get frustrated by what the teams are doing, just focus on ourselves, and we’ll just run our sets. And we got great shots at the moment.”
They made 57 percent of their shots, one of the best team performances thus far in the tournament.
San Diego State (26-8) simply couldn’t keep pace, especially when shots weren’t falling in the second half. SDSU missed 17 of 25 shots from beyond the arc.
N.C. State’s win is certain to make first-year coach Mark Gottfried the toast of Raleigh, N.C. Already a hit for his recruiting hits and up-tempo play, earning an NCAA tournament win is exactly what the hoops-rich school wants from its program.
“We have great fans. They love their team. They have great passion, support. And it’s our job to give them something to be excited about,” Gottfried said.
“So I view that as a positive thing for our program and our fan base. We’ve got great, great Wolfpack fans. Not everyone has what we have, and I’m appreciative of it.”
Next up? A chance to reach the Sweet 16. N.C. State will play the Georgetown-Belmont winner on Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.
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