Quick hits and notes from NC State's 80-55 blowout win over hapless Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C., Sunday afternoon in front of 12,576 uninspired fans at the LJVM Coliseum.
Play of the game
NC State set the tone quickly. After scoring on its first two possessions, the Pack was up 4-0 when Wake Forest freshman center Carson Desrosiers missed a jumper. NC State freshman forward C.J. Leslie grabbed the defensive board, took a few dribbles and found senior forward Tracy Smith hustling on the fast break. Leslie dished a nice assist to Smith for a lay-up, giving the Pack a 6-0 lead and forcing Demon Deacons head coach Jeff Bzdelik to call a 30-second timeout just 1:43 into the game.
Highlight of the game
NC State, especially Leslie, spent quite a bit of this game above the rim. One memorable slam-dunk came with 4:36 left in the first half. That's when Wolfpack freshman guard Lorenzo Brown broke down the defense, forcing Desrosiers to leave Leslie open on the baseline to stop Brown's penetration. Brown made the right play, passing it to Leslie, and Leslie went to the basket strong for a tomahawk dunk over Desrosiers and getting fouled in the process. Leslie made the free throw for a three-point play the old-fashioned way, giving the Pack a 31-23 advantage.
Player of the game
Leslie's image has taken a bit of a beating in recent weeks after some perceived lackluster performances and then a one-game suspension for a violation of a team rule that forced him to miss the Feb. 5 blow-out loss at Duke in Durham, N.C. Leslie responded well though, practicing hard throughout the week according to NCSU head coach Sidney Lowe after apologizing to his teammates. Leslie got the start and scored 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. That matched Leslie's conference-game best, ironically set earlier this season against Wake Forest, and was just two points off his career high of 21 points against Tennessee Tech in the Wolfpack's season-opener Nov. 12.
Wake comes at a good time
NC State had 19 lay-ups among its 33 made baskets, including 10 dunks. Six of Leslie's seven made baskets were dunks, and his other shot was a lay-in off an alley-oop feed from senior guard Javier Gonzalez. The Pack thoroughly dominated this game, and at times it almost looked easy.
In two games against Wake, NC State led all 80 minutes. The 25-point win Sunday was the third largest margin of victory in an ACC road game ever for State, and their most lopsided road league win since 1957. On Jan. 8, State whacked Wake 90-69. Check out the accumulated stats from those two contests:
Score: NC State 170, Wake Forest 124
Field goals: NC State 67 of 125 (53.6 percent), Wake Forest 46 of 113 (40.7 percent)
Rebounding: NC State 83, Wake Forest 48
Offensive rebounding: NC State 31, Wake Forest 17
Assists: NC State 41, Wake Forest 17
The two games against Wake are the only times in ACC play this season that the Pack have shot over 50 percent from the field or have outrebounded its opponent.
How bad is Wake Forest?
No matter what the perspective is about NC State's current season, there's no way it can compare to what Wake Forest is suffering through under first-year head coach Bzdelik. Eight of Wake's nine conference losses have now been by at least 19 points. The 25-point margin for the Wolfpack matched Wake Forest's loss at Georgia Tech Jan. 19 for their second-worst loss of the season behind a 29-point defeat at Virginia Tech Jan. 15.
For just the second time this season, Lowe decided to start all three touted freshmen. Brown and Leslie were joined by freshman point guard Ryan Harrow, sophomore wing Scott Wood and Smith in the starting line-up.
In addition to Leslie's strong performance, both Brown and Harrow were solid. Harrow made 4 of 10 shots, including 1 of 2 three-point attempts, for nine points to go with six assists and a team-high two steals with three turnovers in 24 minutes. Brown had seven points on 3-of-7 shooting to go with a game-high seven assists and just two turnovers in 31 minutes.
The only other time all three freshmen started in a game was at Florida State Jan. 15. In that game, which State lost 84-71, Harrow scored his personal-ACC best 17 points and had three assists in just 21 minutes. Leslie nearly had a double-double of 10 points and nine boards in 29 minutes, but Brown struggled, making just 1 of 6 shots and finishing with two points.
What the win means
NC State improves to 13-11 overall and 3-7 in the ACC, and gets some cushion in avoiding a dreaded last place finish in the ACC. Wake Forest falls to 8-17 overall and 1-9 in the ACC. The Pack is now in a tie for ninth place in the conference with Virginia, a half-game ahead of Georgia Tech, who is 3-8.
NC State is 3-0 against league teams with below-.500 conference marks and 0-7 against conference teams above .500. The Pack has yet to play the one team in the league, Maryland, who is .500.
NC State now leads the overall series against Wake Forest 134-99 and improved to 26-38 all-time in games played in Winston-Salem. Lowe is 7-3 coaching against the Deacs, 2-3 at the LJVM Coliseum. The Pack have won three in a row against Wake Forest and swept the season series for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
Wake Forest's 17 losses matches the 2005-06 season for the most since the Deacs lost 18 games in 1987-88. The school record for losses in one season is 21.
Other stats of note
- NC State outscored Wake Forest 46-32 in the paint, 11-6 on second chance points and 12-4 on the fast break.
- For just the third time in ACC play the Pack won the turnover margin, giving it up 11 times compared to Wake's 15. That led to a 19-9 edge in points off turnovers.
- NC State outrebounded Wake 36-26 overall and 11-9 on the offensive glass.
- Wake's bench outscored NC State's 18-16.