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December 11, 2011

NC State holds on for 65-60 win over NC Central

NC State struggled to score down the stretch, but took advantage of one of the easiest shots in the game to pull out the win over cross-town foe North Carolina Central.

NC State went 6 of 6 from the free-throw line over the last 35.9 seconds to hold off hard-charging NC Central.

Senior wing C.J. Williams scored a career-high 21 points and junior small forward Scott Wood added 19 points and five three-pointers to give NC State a hard-fought 65-60 victory Sunday over North Carolina Central in front of 4,018 fans at Reynolds Coliseum.

Williams was happy the Wolfpack won, but added the victory was a learning lesson.

"We have started playing not to lose instead of playing to win," Williams said. "At the end of the day, you know you've been in a situation like this, and you know you've won.

"You want to win the win the right way. You don't want to win ugly games all the time."

NC State improved to 6-3 overall and are off until next Saturday when potential new No. 1-ranked Syracuse comes to town at the RBC Center. North Carolina Central fell to 5-5 overall.

"You always are happy when you win, but the difference between winning and losing is a big deal and feels a whole lot different, so we are always excited to win," NC State coach Mark Gottfried said. "We feel like we could have played a whole lot better. I think you have to give North Carolina Central a lot of credit."

North Carolina Central turned to a 2-3 zone and 3-2 matchup zone for most of the second half. Wood feasted on the zone to go 5 of 9 from three-point range, but the rest of the team shot a 2 of 14 from beyond the arc.

"We had to go to the zone a little early, " NCCU coach LeVelle Moton said. "They were too big. We just couldn't man up and wanted to throw them different looks at them."

Wood's outside marksmanship helped NC State build up its biggest lead in the second half.

Wood's fourth three-pointer of a game gave NC State a cushy 56-41 lead with 9:57 left in the game. Wood added his fifth three-pointer with 5:05 left, and that was the only field goal by NC State over the last 9:57 of the game.

North Carolina Central went on a 15-3 run to cut the Wolfpack lead to 59-56 with 1:45 left. Four different players scored during the stretch for the Eagles, who played without third-leading scorer Landon Clement. Junior shooting guard Ebuka Anyaorah filled the void with 13 points and three-pointers.

The offense might have come undone down the stretch, but that doesn't mean the Wolfpack didn't execute over the final 105 seconds. NC State made sure to get the ball to its top two free-throw shooters.

Williams was fouled with 35.9 seconds left, and made both free throws to extend the lead to 61-56. Up next was Wood, who made four straight free throws to close out the victory. Wood is 17 of 17 from the line this season, while Williams improved to 17 of 20 for 85 percent.

Gottfried felt his team played cautious down the stretch.

"I thought we became real tentative late in the game," Gottfried said. "I don't think you can play the game that way. You have to keep attacking and you have to keep doing things kind of in attack mode. We got away from that.

"At the end of the game, we got the ball in the right hands for foul shots, and made a couple of big shots ourselves."

NC Central outscored NC State 19-9 over the final 9:57, giving the Wolfpack an area to concentrate on with a week off coming up. Conversely, NC State did start fast with a 9-0 lead, holding NCCU scoreless for the first 6:18 of the game.

"We need to be able to start the game and finish it the same way," NCSU junior center Richard Howell said. "I think it's a positive that we didn not hang our heads when they cut our lead. We hung in and won."

NCSU's early lead mushroomed into 21-8 in the first half before the Eagles responded with a 7-0 mini-run to climb back into the game, 21-15. NC State maintained a nice cushion the rest of the first half to take a 37-27 lead into halftime.

NC State also played without two key cogs for long stretches of the game. Leading scorer C.J. Leslie, a sophomore power forward, picked up his second foul with 17:43 left in the first half, and didn't play the rest of the half. Leslie struggled to get into the rhythm of the game and had three points on only three field-goal attempts, and six rebounds in 21 minutes.

Foul trouble struck in the second half with Howell picking up his third and fourth fouls to start the second half. He went to the bench with 17:03 left in the game and played nine second-half minutes. Howell battled through the foul problems to finish with 11 points, eight rebounds and three assists in 27 minutes.

"Almost every game it appears that one of our bigs are in foul trouble," Gottfried said. "The good thing is we have some depth, and maybe I should play some guys with two fouls more, but we have to defend better and move our feet without fouling."

Junior wing Ray Willis scored a team-high 17 points to lead the Eagles, while senior forward Dominique Sutton added 15, and Anyaorah and senior power forward Nick Chasten finished with 13 apiece.

"We were able to make it a close ball game and I just told them let's put the pressure on them," Moton said. "I thought we did a good job locating in the zone, but we left Wood open and he did what he did."


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