Quick hits and notes from NC State's 84-66 victory over Florida State Tuesday evening in front of 17,011 fans at the PNC Arena.
Play of the game
NC State took control of this game early, and the play that helped set the tone for the evening was when senior center Richard Howell stripped FSU freshman guard Devon Bookert of the ball a few feet outside the three-point arc and took it uncontested for a two-handed dunk.
Bookert was trying to go around a screen, but Howell calmly (and more importantly cleanly) reached in to knock the ball away and get the steal. It was the second-straight FSU turnover to lead to a basket for NC State and gave NCSU a 15-8 lead with 14:27 to go in the first. FSU coach Leonard Hamilton immediately called a timeout after Howell's dunk, but the Noles would not get closer than six points the rest of the game.
Highlight of the game
NC State junior forward C.J. Leslie went way above the rim on several occasions. With 2:22 left in the game he flew high for a two-handed dunk off an inbounds alley-oop pass from Brown. However, the play that stuck out to us came in the first half.
Howell had leaned in for a shot with his right hand falling to his right, but misfired. Leslie came in from the left side and went up strong and high for a right-handed dunk follow that brought the crowd to its feet with 10:53 to go and gave NCSU an 18-9 lead.
ESPN's Sportscenter disagreed with us. They ranked Leslie's alley-oop dunk as the No. 3 play of the day and his follow-up dunk No. 7.
Player of the game
Did you watch the game? Then you probably would just make an immediate assumption about who the player of the game was: freshman forward T.J. Warren.
Getting just his fifth start of the year and first for non-injury related reasons since the Connecticut contest in New York Dec. 4, Warren poured in 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in an incredibly efficient effort. Both were career-highs, topping his 22 points and eight rebounds against Penn State in Puerto Rico Nov. 15.
Warren tied J.J. Hickson and current senior wing Scott Wood for the third most points scored in a game by a freshman in a Wolfpack uniform. Ernie Myers' 35 points against Duke in 1983 remains the all-time record. Hickson also had a 32-point effort his freshman season.
Warren was 12 of 15 from the field, making both of his three-point shot attempts, and 5 of 5 from the line. The latter is impressive considering Warren had made just 51.7 percent of free throws going into Tuesday's contest. In fact, Warren had never made more than two free throws without missing at least one in a game this year.
Warren is now 12 of 22 shooting three-pointers this year, making at least two in a game for the first time since he connected on a pair against Norfolk State Dec. 15.
Other noteworthy marks
Overshadowed by Warren's big output was Leslie's very good all-around effort Tuesday. He had a double-double, his eighth of the year and fifth in the last seven games, of 19 points and 10 rebounds. Leslie had 12 double-doubles in his first two seasons combined.
Wood had 13 points, making 3 of 5 three-pointers in the contest. In his last seven games, Wood has made 24 of 49 three-point attempts. His first three-pointer of the night gave him 300 for his career. His 302 career treys are now 19 behind Rodney Monroe's all-time school record for most three-pointers in a career. With at least six games left, Wood needs to average 3.2 threes a game to reach Monroe's mark.
Signs of a rotation
Head coach Mark Gottfried, citing freshman guard Rodney Purvis' recent struggles and a feeling that he needed to shake up the line-up a bit, started Warren over Purvis Tuesday. Warren then made it hard to take him out of the game.
Purvis played 12 minutes off the bench (the fewest Purvis has played in a game this year) and freshman guard Tyler Lewis also played 10 minutes. Getting playing time for the first contest since playing two minutes in the loss at Duke Feb. 7 was redshirt junior center Jordan Vandenberg. Vandenberg played seven minutes, although his play included three fouls and a turnover in that stretch.
Dominating the boards
NC State's 18-point margin was its largest in ACC play this year and most lopsided victory since they defeated UNC Greensboro 89-68 on New Year's Eve. It was only the second time in league action that the Pack even had a double-digit victory. The previous time was an 83-70 home triumph over Georgia Tech Jan. 9 in a game that was more competitive than its margin may have indicated.
A big reason for NC State's win: rebounding. The Pack had an incredible 45-21 edge on the glass, and that was despite the fact that senior center Richard Howell had seven rebounds, his fewest total in an ACC game this year and lowest output since he grabbed five boards against St. Bonaventure Dec. 22 after fouling out in 12 minutes.
The 45 boards were the most for NC State in one game this year. Conversely the 21 rebounds by Florida State were the fewest an opponent have grabbed against NCSU this season. It does not take a math major to figure out that means NC State had its most lopsided rebounding margin win of the year, topping the plus-14 against UNC Asheville Nov. 23.
Their previous best rebounding margin in ACC play had been plus-10 against UNC Jan. 26. The large rebounding margin Tuesday helped give NC State an eye-popping 29-6 edge in second-chance points.
Spotted at the game
Former UCLA coach Jim Harrick was once again behind the NC State bench. Former NCSU player Gavin Grant was also spotted at the game.
One notable recruit in attendance was senior power forward Lennard Freeman, who visited alongside his coaches from Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy.
What the win means
NC State improved to 19-7 overall and 8-5 in the ACC by winning its third straight game. Florida State fell to 14-12 and 6-7 in conference action. The Noles are 6-2 in the ACC when the game is decided by 10 points or less, 0-5 otherwise.
Given UNC's win and Virginia's loss Tuesday evening, the three teams are now tied for third place in the ACC at 8-5. If the ACC Tournament was held today, Virginia would be the three seed by virtue of it's 2-1 combined record against UNC and NCSU. NCSU is 1-1 and would be fourth. UNC, with its 1-2 record against Virginia and State, would be the fifth seed.
Florida State fell to 14-12 overall and 6-7 in the ACC. They are tied for sixth in the league with Maryland but own the tiebreaker over the Terps since they swept Maryland in two games already this season.
NC State improved to 28-21 all-time against FSU, including 15-8 in games player on State's home court and 7-5 at the PNC Arena.
Other stats of note
- NC State outscored FSU in the paint 42-30.
- Both teams had 14 turnovers and had 12 points off turnovers.
- NC State dominated in transition, outscoring FSU 15-3 in fast break points.
- The Noles' bench outscored NC State's reserves 18-4.