Quick hits and notes from NC State's regular season-ending 72-62 loss to Florida State in front of 14,218 loyal Wolfpack fans at the RBC Center Sunday evening.
Play of the game
NC State took its second and last lead of the game with 7:11 left when sophomore forward Richard Howell made two free throws to give the Pack a 55-54 advantage. Then Florida State senior guard Derwin Kitchen took over. He made back-to-back lay-ups, the second of which was a pretty blow-by drive to the basket with 6:17 left to give FSU a 58-55 lead. The Noles never looked back.
Highlight of the game
NC State freshman forward C.J. Leslie scored the first of his team-high 12 points on an alley-oop dunk feed from freshman guard Lorenzo Brown with 10:06 left in the first half. Brown threw the pass from the left wing to Leslie who was on the right block for the two-handed throw-down. The play cut FSU's lead to 21-10.
On a side note, Leslie was NC State's only double-digit scorer Sunday night. That was just the third time this season that NC State had only one double-digit scorer, and his 12 points were the fewest individual team-high total all season.
Player of the game
Kitchen recorded his fourth double-double of the season, scoring a game-high 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field and grabbing 13 rebounds, matching his previous career high set against Hartford Dec. 5. Ten of Kitchen's boards were on the defensive glass.
He was also the decisive player down the stretch, scoring six of the Noles' eight points during an 8-1 run after Howell's two free throws with 7:11 left to give FSU a 62-56 lead with 4:51 remaining in the contest.
Noles are a tough match-up
The first time these two teams met, NC State tied four times but never led in an 84-71 loss in Tallahassee, Fla., Jan. 15. This outing the Wolfpack fell behind by 13 points on three different occasions in the first half. Twice the Pack managed to take a lead by one point in the second half, the first coming when sophomore wing Scott Wood made a three-pointer with 8:09 left to give State a 53-52 edge. FSU would score on a sophomore guard Michael Snaer's jumper 27 seconds later.
In two games against FSU, NC State led for a grand total of 46 seconds out of 80 minutes, and never by more than a single point. They also had six ties.
Florida State's inside players are particularly a tough match-up for the Pack. They held a clearly less-than 100 percent senior forward Tracy Smith to just eight points on 2-of-6 shooting and six rebounds in 30 minutes. Meanwhile the duo of juniors Bernard James and Jon Kreft, a pair of tall, long and physical centers, scored a combined 26 points and nine rebounds, and James added four blocks and two steals for good measure.
The first time these two teams played, James had 16 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two blocks.
FSU about to get good news?
After the game, FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton strongly hinted that FSU star junior forward Chris Singleton, who has not played since breaking his foot against Virginia Feb. 12, was ahead of schedule in his rehab and may begin some sort of rehab in the near future, although Hamilton was uncertain if Singleton would be back for the ACC Tournament. Singleton was a visible presence on the FSU sideline Sunday night, cheering on his teammates.
Singleton is FSU's leading scorer and rebounder at 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game and one of the top defensive players in the ACC.
Not so memorable senior night
The Pack started three seniors, Smith, guard Javier Gonzalez and walk-on Enrico Kufuor Sunday night. Kufuor only played three minutes in the first half before leaving. He missed his one shot attempt, a three-pointer, and also turned the ball over once.
Gonzalez went just 2 of 8 from the field, 1 of 5 on three-pointers, and finished with five points, three assists, three steals and a pair of turnovers in 17 minutes. Freshman Ryan Harrow, who had five points, five assists and three turnovers in 23 minutes, got the bulk of the playing time at point guard.
Smith's eight points were just the second time in ACC play this year he has been under double figures scoring. He was held to four points at Duke Feb. 5. Smith came into the FSU contest averaging 15.2 points per game in conference action.
Spotted at the game
There were several notable recruits in attendance. Guard JaQawn Raymond from Statesboro (Ga.) High and forward Nemanja Djurisic from South Kent (Conn.) School were both behind the Wolfpack bench while on their official visits. Raymond has verbally committed to NC State this weekend, as first reported by The Wolfpacker Sunday morning. Djurisic has also taken official visits to Arizona State and Utah.
Also in attendance was center Joseph Uchebo, a signee from Word of God Academy in Raleigh and Nigerian-native, Wolfpack commitment Tyler Lewis, a Statesville, N.C., native playing at Forsyth Country Day School in Lewisville, N.C., and junior guard Madison Jones, an uncommitted prospect from Ravenscroft High in Raleigh.
Former NC State head football coach and FSU assistant Chuck Amato was also at the game.
What the loss means
NC State falls to 15-15 overall and 5-11 in the ACC. The 15 losses matched the worst regular season defeat tally in the Sidney Lowe era. The Pack also lost 15 games in 2007-08 regular season. NC State finishes in a tie with Georgia Tech for 10th in the conference, but since the Pack defeated the Yellow Jackets 79-74 Feb. 26 in the RBC Center, NC State gets the 10 seed. The Pack will play Maryland, who topped NCSU 87-80 in College Park Feb. 20, in the first round of the ACC Tournament Thursday evening at 7 p.m., in Greensboro, N.C. Maryland is the tournament's seven seed.
Florida State finishes 21-9 on the regular season and 11-5 in the ACC. The 11 conference wins mark the most ACC wins in a season for FSU since they had 12 in 1993. The 11 victories matched the 1991-92 Seminoles squad for the second-most ACC wins in a single season in school history.
NC State is now 3-2 in senior day games under Lowe. NC State is also now 27-20 all-time against FSU as the Noles swept the season series with the Pack. NC State is 14-7 in games played in Raleigh between the two teams and 6-4 in the RBC Center, but the Noles have won four of the last five games in the Wolfpack's home arena.
Other stats of note
- Florida State outrebounded NC State 37-32. Both teams had 11 offensive boards, but FSU had a 15-11 edge in second-chance points.
- Both teams had 14 turnovers, but FSU had a decisive 14-5 advantage in points off turnovers.
- FSU outscored NC State 38-26 in the paint and 9-5 on the fast break.
- NC State's bench outscored FSU's 29-26.