ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In a battle of two programs on an upward trajectory back toward the upper echelon of college basketball, N.C. State fell short to No. 3 Michigan, 79-72 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday.
The 18th-ranked Wolfpack, pock-mocked with too many turnovers and too much foul trouble from the get-go, never found an offensive rhythm in the first half. NC State showed great toughness, overcoming its second-half slump to make it tight at the end, but eventually fell victim to too many mistakes.
After trading buckets with Michigan for the first couple minutes, the Wolverines — aided by sluggish play, fouls and costly turnovers from NC State — went on a 21-6 run, pushing their lead to 30-16.
With the Crisler Arena crowd fully ramped up, NC State calmed down, ran a more methodical system and climbed back into the game by halftime, outscoring the Wolverines 20-12 in the final seven-and-a-half minutes of the opening stanza.
Although NC State turned the ball over six turnovers in the half — including a disappointing three from junior power forward C.J. Leslie — the Pack offense was effective when it held onto the ball. NC State found plenty of success working the ball inside against the Wolverines' young post players, knocking down 12-of-16 shots in the paint.
Michigan had no answer early on for senior center Richard Howell, who bullied his way inside and knocked down his first four shots of the game before early foul trouble sent him to the bench.
Senior wing Scott Wood used the Wolfpack's early success in the paint to get up behind the arc, hitting 2-of-4 3-pointers.
But even though it was NC State who went into halftime with the momentum, the Wolverines were the more fired-up team for the final 20 minutes.
Michigan outpaced NC State 23-8 in the first 11 minutes of the half. And many of the same mistakes that plagued the Wolfpack in the first half contributed to their second-half struggles.
Leslie continued his off night, adding three more turnovers to finish with six. He went 8-of-17 from the field and finished with a team-high 16 points and added 10 boards to cap a double-double.
Howell continued to be NC State's most dangerous offensive weapon — when he could stay on the court. He picked up his third and fourth foul early in the half, sending him back to the bench. He fouled out with 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines used a balance offensive attack to keep the Wolfpack defense guessing. four Michigan players finished with double-digit points, including a game-high 20 from freshman shooting guard Nik Stauskas, who went 6-of-10 from the field, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range.
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