Entering Sunday’s game at Clemson having lost five of their last seven games, it’s a safe assumption that ACC preseason favorite N.C. State won’t win the conference’s regular season title.
Of greater concern was whether or not the Wolfpack would be able to snap out of their funk, and for much of the afternoon it looked as if a team in search of answers would suffer yet another close defeat.
But Lorenzo Brown’s pass to an open Scott Wood led to the three-pointer that gave the Wolfpack (17-7, 6-5) a 58-57 victory and kept them from dropping to below .500 in conference play.
As was the case in four of their five losses the little things would play a role in the outcome, with N.C. State nearly losing because of two late turnovers. But the Wolfpack would get one last shot at the win due to Milton Jennings missing the front end of a 1-and-1 with 12.3 seconds remaining, and they took advantage of it.
Brown didn’t start the game but he made up for lost time (and shot attempts), scoring 15 points (6-of-15 FG) and dishing out four assists in 32 minutes of action. For significant stretches head coach Mark Gottfried went with a backcourt of Brown and freshman Tyler Lewis, who played well in losses to No. 8 Miami and No. 4 Duke.
However the rotation change had an adverse effect on freshman Rodney Purvis, who was largely ineffective and failed to score in 27 minutes of playing time. In theory Purvis and the other guards will get more comfortable as they get practice time with Brown back in the fold, but who’s to say that will definitely happen?
Forwards Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie both posted double-doubles in the win, combining to score 28 points and grab 21 rebounds, but they also accounted for eight of the Wolfpack’s 12 turnovers. And with Leslie racking up 13 turnovers over the last three games, that’s an area he needs to clean up as N.C. State begins this stretch run.
Sunday’s win was a result the Wolfpack needed for their collective psyche, and the schedule works in their favor with home games against Virginia Tech and Florida State next week.
But Sunday’s result should not mask the fact that N.C. State is a team still looking to find its rhythm.
Video credit: ACC Digital Network
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.