NC State didn't expect to have to sweat out a three-point attempt by Detroit freshman Jarod Williams, not after having a 18-point lead.
NC State sophomore small forward T.J. Warren split a pair of free throws with 5.9 seconds to give the Wolfpack a 82-79 lead, but the Titans had one last shot to force overtime. NCSU elected not to foul and Williams got a clean look from a few feet behind the top of the key, but couldn't get the shooter's roll in front of 5,758 fans at historic Reynolds Coliseum.
Warren finished with a game-high 29 points, and got help from strong off the bench by redshirt junior wing Ralston Turner, who hit 6 of 8 three-pointers for 21 points to help the Wolfpack improve to 7-2 overall.
"I've been in the gym getting a lot of extra shots because I wanted to be ready when my time comes," Turner said. "Any time you are making three-pointers, it spreads out the defense and gives other guys opportunities to make plays."
NC State held its biggest plead of the game 65-47 with 7:52 left in the game. Detroit sliced the lead down to 72-62 with 3:42 left, but the Wolfpack were still in control. Nervous time didn't kick in until the Titans' Evan Bruinsma made a layup to make it 75-71 with 1:03 remaining.
NC State coach Mark Gottfried lamented his team's 15 turnovers, 11 missed free throws and foul trouble that limited two of the starters.
"We have to get a lot better," Gottfried said. "There is a lot of ways to look at the game. We had a nice 13, 15-point lead, but they made some tough shots and big shots. I don't think we guarded as well as we clearly could have late in the game. We didn't get stops down the stretch."
NC State freshman power forward Kyle Washington got a putback dunk and then hit two free throws down the stretch to keep Detroit at bay. The Wolfpack ended up shooting 5 of 8 at the free-throw line in the final minute.
"Kyle got some tough rebounds, made foul shots and had a nice tip-dunk late in the game that was a big play for us at that point in time," Gottfried said. "He did a nice job."
The bench brigade of Turner, Washington and sophomore point guard Tyler Lewis gave the Wolfpack a huge lift in outscoring Detroit's bench 35-12. The trio also added eight assists, with Lewis getting seven of them, in what is arguably the trio's best performance of the season coming off the bench collectively.
"Ralston gave us a great lift and played good," Gottfried said. "I thought Tyler did terrific and ended up with seven assists. He found some guys against the zone. They could start for us, you never know.
"Those three guys came off the bench and did a nice job tonight."
The bench trio all entered the game at the 12:44 mark in the first half, and NCSU leading 12-8. The Wolfpack took off from there.
Turner came out firing and hit back-to-back three-pointers to give the Wolfpack a 20-11 lead. Lewis made sure to continuously find Turner, and his third three-pointer of the game stretched the Wolfpack lead to 25-13.
If NC State wasn't hitting three-pointers, then odds were good that a dunk play was involved. Warren lobbed a pass to fifth-year center Jordan Vandenberg, who did a reverse finish. Warren also had one of his own off a sharp outlet pass from Washington.
Detroit made its big run of the half late, rattling off a 10-2 spurt to cut NCSU's lead to 35-28. Juwan Howard Jr. scored five of his nine first-half points, and senior center Ugochukwu Njoku got his second dunk of the game and was fouled, and he converted the three-point play.
Howard scored 15 of his team-high 24 points in the second half, and went 4 of 8 from three-point land. Bruinsma added 16 points and six rebounds, and Njoku chipped in 11 points and nine rebounds for the Titans (5-6 overall).
"They are battle-tested and a good team," Gottfried said. "I think they will have a chance to win their league. I think our guys didn't feel like they would quit. They just made big shots at the end. They just got by us off the dribble."
NC State returns to action at Tennessee on Wednesday for a key non-conference road game that will boost the NCAA Tournament hopes of the victorious team. The Volunteers lost 70-61 on Saturday against Wichita State to fall to 6-2 overall.