WINSTON-SALEM - NC State was looking to bounce back after a disappointing and surprising 11-point home loss to Georgia Tech Wednesday night at the RBC Center in Raleigh.
That is exactly what the Wolfpack did, and Wake Forest was the victim.
Using a strong defensive effort, NC State squashed the Demon Deacons 76-40 during a dominating performance in front of a crowd of 11,101 fans at the LJVM Coliseum in Winston-Salem.
"We did not play the way that we felt like we could play in our last game, so I think our guys responded today," Wolfpack head coach Mark Gottfried said. "We have to play to our potential regardless of who we are playing, that was the takeaway from today. I think we played the game the way I would like our team to play. It was a good win for us."
NC State was led by sophomore guard Lorenzo Brown, who had 20 points, six assists and four steals. Junior post player Richard Howell added a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Senior wing C.J. Williams chipped in 15 points.
Junior wing Scott Wood also scored 12 points and made both of his free throws to extend his streak of consecutive made shots at the line to 51, three shy of former Duke guard J.J. Redick's record. Wood was sent to the line after taking an elbow from Wake Forest junior forward Travis McKie that resulted in McKie's ejection from the game with 11:37 to go.
After Brown went on a personal 6-0 run over the final 1:42 of the first half, NC State led 33-17 at halftime. They held the Deacs to just 25.0 percent shooting (6 of 24) in the opening 20 minutes, and not a single Wake player made more than one field goal in the first half.
State then went for the kill early in the second half. By the time the two teams huddled for the under-eight official timeout with 7:41 left, NC State had outscored Wake Forest 30-8 in the second half to take a commanding 63-25 lead. The Wolfpack came close to surpassing a 40-point, 112-72 rout of Clemson in 1954 for the school's most lopsided ACC road win ever.
The win though was unlike previous blowout victories this year for the Pack. State relied on defense after a forgettable performance guarding the Yellow Jackets three nights earlier. Wake Forest never warmed up in the second half after a dreadful first half shooting performance.
The Deacs made just 16 of 55 shots in the game for 29.1 percent and just 2 of 20 three pointers. The field goal percentage was actually inflated by the fact Wake made seven of its final 17 shots after the official timeout with 7:41 left. Only junior guard C.J. Harris reached double figures in scoring, netting 10 points on just 3-of-12 shooting.
"I think our staff normally does a good job with their scouting report, and I think today we really had them pegged," Gottfried noted. "Our guys really executed defensively on how we wanted to defend certain things.
"For us, the key was that their perimeter guys were averaging 46 points per game, and when you add up their totals today I think they scored 15. That was an emphasis. We've been weak at times with containing really good scorers on the perimeter. Today we did a much better job with that."
The focal point for State's defense was stopping Harris, McKie and sophomore point guard Tony Chennault. Williams, in particular, was challenged by Gottfried, and he responded by holding McKie to just 1-of-5 shooting and two points before his ejection after 26 minutes. McKie also had four turnovers.
McKie had entered the game as the ACC's second leading scorer and averaging 18.0 points a game.
"You just don't want [McKie] to get into a rhythm," Williams noted. "You want to take that away, make him start out the game by taking away his right hand and taking away his open jump shots.
"[Gottfried] told me that I had to be a lockdown defender for this team. We got guys that can defend, but he wanted to know that I can go and take the best player away from them. If you take away they best perimeter player then that reduces what they do offensively, and that's what I want to be able to do."
Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik was admittedly puzzled by the Deacons' poor offensive output.
"First of all, give NC State some credit," he said. "They physically hit us every time we went to move, combined with the fact that we had absolutely not offensive intensity.
"We were not cutting and screening and moving the ball, so we started getting marries to jacking up threes. When you're doing that on offense, and you're struggling to score, it slowly wears on you defensively."
NC State's rout came without any production from its leading scorer, sophomore forward C.J. Leslie. Leslie did not start for the first time since the Indiana contest Nov. 30 for discipline reasons. He only played 17 minutes after rolling his ankle and went scoreless for the first time this year.
Junior center DeShawn Painter started in Leslie's place and finished with seven points and 12 rebounds in 28 minutes.
"Calvin has been very good this year, and I expect him to be fine," Gottfried said. "I thought DeShawn Painter stepped up and was really good. As a player, you get opportunities sometimes, and DeShawn did very well. I was very proud of him for that."
NC State improved to 13-5 on the season and 2-1 in the ACC while Wake Forest endured its most lopsided loss of the year and fell to 10-7 overall and 1-2 in the league.
The Pack will be looking to sustain its momentum at home against Boston College Thursday night in the RBC Center before embarking on perhaps its most crucial stretch in the ACC, with three of its following four games coming on the road and the one home date being against ranked Virginia.
"We played great defense today, and we need to continue to do that," Brown said. We were very disappointed about the Georgia Tech game. We have to come out and play every game like [Wake Forest]. We have a long way to go."