NC State is starting to become the well-rounded force individuals predicted the Wolfpack would be in the preseason.
Junior power forward C.J. Leslie assaulted the rim over and over, either getting layups, dunks or fouled en route to 33 points and eight rebounds to lead the No. 25-ranked Wolfpack to an easy 92-73 win over St. Bonaventure in front of 16,288 fans Saturday at PNC Arena.
Senior small forward Scott Wood complemented Leslie's inside attacking skills by making his first eight shots to eventually finish with 23 points and five three-pointers. Junior point guard Lorenzo Brown was the conductor with seven points, 11 assists, six rebounds and just two turnovers.
NC State systematically did whatever it wanted to do to improve to 9-2 overall, while St. Bonaventure fell to 7-4. The Wolfpack return to action Dec. 29 with a home game against Western Michigan.
"We are getting better and that is the main thing," Wood said. "You don't really want to peak at the beginning of the year. We are playing well and there are some things we could do better, and we'll continue to work on it.
"I felt it [the energy] was great tonight. This was probably our best full game. I think we've had stretches where we've played really, really well, but I'd say this was our best 40-minute game that we put together."
The NC State veterans have been carrying the team the last few games. Seniors Richard Howell and Wood and juniors Leslie and Brown, combined for 74 of the Wolfpack's 88 points against Stanford on Dec. 18. The quartet combined for 63 points and 16 assists against St. Bonaventure, and that was with Howell going scoreless in 12-foul plagued minutes at center.
"One of the big parts of being a veteran is being where you need to be and step up where you need to step up," said Leslie, who crushed his previous high of 24 points against North Carolina on Feb. 21, 2012. "One of the good things about this team now is that a lot of guys can step up and lead.
"Lately, I just feel like it has been all of us, the leaders and upperclassmen, all of us are playing well to a certain extent. It might be that one person getting a little bit more, and another person can't get it. We've all have stepped up and led and played fairly well these last couple of games."
Leslie's previous best this season was 19 points against Cleveland State at historic Reynolds Coliseum on Dec. 8.
"It was one of the better feelings, and it was kind of a game where it's starting to get to conference and time to buckle down a little bit," Leslie said. "It's one of those games where I'm focused."
NC State shot over 54.7 percent from the field for the fourth straight game, finishing 32 of 56 for 57.1 percent. NCSU coach Mark Gottfried even sees room for improvement.
"We were very unselfish, really moved the ball well and beginning to run our offense better," Gottfried said. "We got out on the break, which helped us as well. Calvin [Leslie] was tough to guard today. I thought when he attacked the rim and was aggressive, he either scored or got fouled. He was really good today."
The Wolfpack won last year's "neutral court" game against St. Bonaventure 67-65 in Rochester, N.Y., on Leslie short baseline jumper at the buzzer. Leslie has etched his name in the minds of Bonnies fans thanks to Saturday's 33-point effort on 10 of 13 shooting.
"I give NC State credit and they are a talented team," St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt said. "When Leslie plays the way he did today, they are hard to beat.
"They are more experienced [than a year ago], and to me, they are playing better together and they are more unselfish. They are a year older, they understand and they have a couple of pros on the team. They have pros and have athletic kids."
Leslie had perhaps his best half of the season with 18 points and seven rebounds to lead the Wolfpack to an impressive 44-33 lead at halftime.
Leslie got most of his damage going to the rim for dunks, layup and a steady path to the free-throw line, where the career 57.4 percent shooter converted, going 8 of 10 at the line. He finished going 13 of 18, which were career-highs in both categories.
"He brought great energy and really played well for us," Wood said. "Any time he comes out like that, I don't know if there is anyone that can stop him.
"Part of it is matchups and part of it is him just bringing the energy."
Leslie's performance was needed with Howell getting saddled with two fouls with a little over 11:11 left in the first half, and then eventually fouling out with zero points and five boards in 12 minutes of action.
Redshirt junior center Jordan Vandenberg and Warren filled the void in the Wolfpack's tight eight-man rotation.
NC State sprinted out to take an early 15-6 lead after Brown found Vandenberg for a dunk with 13:02 left in the first half.
St. Bonaventure went on a 12-4 run of its own to cut it to 19-18 with 9:58 remaining in the first half, which helped set up a trend. Whenever NC State raced out to a comfortable lead, St. Bonaventure would answer with a run of its own in the first half to stay within striking distance.
NC State responded with a dominating 17-4 run capped Warren with a fastbreak dunk to take a 36-22 lead with 3:48 left in the first half.
St. Bonaventure responded with a 10-3 run to hang in the game, 39-30 with 1:46 left. NC State finished strong going into halftime and shot a blistering 17 of 29 from the field for 58.6 percent, which is starting to become a bit routine at PNC Arena.
Wood continued his hot shooting from the Stanford game (17 points vs. Cardinal] by going 5 of 5 from the field, including two three-pointers, for 12 points, and he also opened with a three-pointer 31 seconds into the second half to extend the lead to 47-33.
Warren helped deliver the knockout blow with seven points during a 9-1 run to build a commanding 76-52 lead with 8:35 left in the game. Warren finished with 13 points and seven rebounds while playing for Howell.
"We played T.J. at the forward some and he did a nice job playing that position," Gottfried said. "We think we are a lot better when Richard isn't in foul trouble. I hated that for him today because he played so well lately."
St. Bonaventure sophomore center Youssou Ndoye came off the bench and used his 7-foot length to his advantage. He had nine points and six rebounds in the first half and built off his previous two games, where he had 13 points and seven boards against Cleveland State Dec. 15, and 10 points and five boards in 15 minutes vs. The Citadel.
Ndoye finished with 14 points, 14 boards and four blocked shots in 28 minutes, while senior guard Eric Mosley came off the bench for five three-pointers and 18 points for the Bonnies.
St. Bonaventure shot 26 of 64 from the field for 40.6 percent, and its four perimeter oriented starters — junior point guard Charlon Kloof and senior wings Chris Johnson, Matthew Wright and Demitrius Conger — combined to 9 of 31 from the field and 1 of 9 from three-point land.
"It's disappointing in a game of this magnitude that your best players have to play well," Schmidt said. "Our two leading scorers [Conger and Johnson] shoot 5 for 18 and 1 for 7 on threes, and that is not good enough when you play a team of this caliber."