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February 4, 2012

NC State spurts past Deacs



NC State used several dominating runs to put away its new ACC partner Saturday.

NC State and Wake Forest found out Friday that they are guaranteed to play each other home-and-home in basketball each year due to the arrival of Syracuse and Pittsburgh. The result is two out of every three years the Wolfpack will play North Carolina just once.

The well-balanced Wolfpack swept the season series thanks to a big game from junior small forward Scott Wood. The long-range sniper poured in six three-pointers en route to 23 points in the 87-76 victory over the Demon Deacons in front of 15,525 fans at the RBC Center.

"Shots were falling, and once you see a couple go in, you have that confidence," Wood said. "You have spurts and teams are going to make runs, and then teams are going to come back at you. You just have to withstand their runs and have more runs than they do."

NC State improved to 17-7 and 6-3 in the ACC with a road game at Georgia Tech up next Feb. 9. Wake Forest fell to 11-12 overall and 2-7 in the ACC, and are on the heels of four-straight losses.

NC State previously defeated Wake Forest 76-40 on Jan. 14, and Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried expected a different Demon Deacons' squad in Raleigh.

"I liked how we got the game up and down and got the break running," Gottfried said. "Defensively, not as good. I thought we could play much better. We gave them too many good looks.

"Scott Wood made some big, big shots. Calvin [Leslie] made a couple of huge plays at key times. When we got out and ran, filled the lanes and played in the open floor, we were pretty good."

Wood and senior shooting guard C.J. Williams were both surprised about having Wake Forest as its playing partner.

"You like to play all the best teams as many times as you can," Wood said. "At the same time, we are adding two great teams, so if we can't play them [UNC], then so bit it. I feel like anybody in the ACC is a rival for us."

Gottfried call the scheduling change "disappointing."

"I share the same feeling with our fans," Gottfried said. "I'm new here, so I'm just learning, but I certainly would like for that [to play UNC twice] to happen."

Both teams featured five players in double figures and each shot at least 50 percent from the field. Williams and sophomore power forward Leslie both scored 18 points apiece and combined for five blocked shots.

Williams has played with or against Wake Forest senior center Ty Walker of Wilmington, N.C., and junior guard C.J. Harris of Winston-Salem, N.C., for years.

"I never would have expected that," said Williams about the scheduling changes. "We like to play against them [UNC], and they are a big challenge for us. [Wake Forest] is a different team because they are more perimeter oriented than North Carolina.

"I've known C.J. since my sophomore year of high school [at Fayetteville (N.C.) Jack Britt]. Ty and I go way back since we were little. We've played against each other a lot. Sometimes, you'll catch us talking about other stuff [on the court]."

Junior center Richard Howell added 11 points and 11 rebounds in a career-high 36 minutes, while sophomore point guard Lorenzo Brown road a big second half to finish with 15 points, eight assists and four rebounds.

Brown, who set a career-high with 38 minutes, snapped out of his recent mini-slump, and had just two turnovers.

"Lorenzo hasn't played as good the last couple of games, but it's nice to see him play better and play with confidence," Gottfried said. "That was really important for us today."

Wake Forest jumped out to an early 7-2 lead, but NC State found its stride with the first big run of the game. Leslie scored four points after making a dunk and drawing a fragrant foul. He subsequently hit both free throws, and the Wolfpack still had possession of the ball. Williams drained a three-pointer and Wood followed with his first of the game to give NC State an early 14-7 lead with 15:03 left in the half.

Wake Forest proved early that the previous blowout loss to NCSU was put in the past. The Demon Decons went on a 7-0 mini run of their own to take a 29-22 lead with 6:32 remaining in the first half.

Wood retreated to the locker room for a brief spell, but once he checked back into the game, he made sure everyone in the arena knew he was back.

Wood caught fire from deep with three-straight three pointers, and Williams five points of his own during an 18-2 run to open a 40-31 lead with 1:28 left in the first half. The momentum helped NC State take a 42-33 lead into halftime.

"When Scott gets it going, we are a lot better team," Williams said.

Wood finished with 15 points at halftime, and he didn't even feel 100 percent on the court.

"I'm not a doctor, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night, but I went back there because I was having a sharp pain in my ankle," Wood said. "I heard tendinitis and heard swelling in the joint was pushing on the joint, but it felt a lot better in the second half. It hurt for most of the first half."

Wake Forest responded well to start the second half and tied the game 50-50 after Travis McKie hit a three-pointer with 13:30 left in the contest.

Brown made a twisting drive in the lane and was fouled to convert a three-point play, added a nice pull-up jumper in the lane and complemented Wood's rare four-point play. NC State was off and running again with a 13-2 run to take a 63-52 lead with 10:04 left in the game.

"Wood has a very quick release, and he was stroking it today," Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "Have to give him credit. Sometimes the offense is just better than the defense."

Wake Forest had one last gasp when Harris hit a three-pointer to cut the Wolfpack's lead to 69-64 with 6:28 left. NC State regrouped behind Williams, who scored six points during the Pack's last big run of the game, an 11-2 spurt to take a commanding 80-66 lead with 3:47 left in the game.

"We didn't want the last few minutes to be a grinded out thing," Williams said. "We didn't want it to come down to possibly one possession. We put our foot to the pedal."

Wake Forest shot 50 percent from the field (29 of 58) and was red-hot from three-point land, shooting 10 of 17. Harris led the Demon Deacons with 21 points, McKie added 13 and Walker chipped in 12.

Chase Fischer hit three three-pointers off the bench for 11 points, and Nikita Mescheriakov had 10 points.

Bzdelik bemoaned the various runs NC State put on his team.

"That 12-0 run, the seven-point play was part of it," Bzdelik said. "You take away those runs, we outscored them by 19. They had too many runs on us.

"In the second half, when Wood made the four-point play, that's 11 points in two particular plays that you just can't have."


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