Quick hits and notes from NC State's 76-72 loss at Stanford in front of 5,871 fans at Maples Pavilion in Stanford, Calif., Sunday afternoon.
Play of the game
NC State led for about 37 minutes Sunday. It was not until 3:06 left when senior forward Josh Owens, who had made just 10 of 24 free throws entering the game, connected on two shots to give the Cardinals its first lead at 65-64. Owens had been fouled on a contested lay-up by Wolfpack junior center DeShawn Painter, who felt that he had a clean block on the play. Stanford did not make a field goal in the final 3:48 of the game, but Owens' free throws were the first of 13 made down the stretch.
Highlight of the game
Wolfpack sophomore forward C.J. Leslie got his first start of the season and made his presence felt quickly. He drove down the lane past his defender for a one-handed dunk with 17:28 to go in the first half, giving the Pack an early 7-4 lead.
Player of the game
There were two candidates for Stanford. Owens was strong in the paint, scoring a game-high 19 points and adding seven rebounds. The typically shaky free throw shooter also made 7 of 9 attempts from the line.
However, we are going with sophomore guard Aaron Bright. Bright struggled early in his match-up with sophomore guard Lorenzo Brown, but Bright finished with 15 points and three assists with no turnovers in 31 minutes. He also scored 10 of Stanford's 12 points during a crucial stretch midway through the second half to cut a 52-40 State lead down to 58-52.
Free throws part of the difference, again
We went into great detail following the Indiana game Wednesday night over how missed free throws may have cost the Wolfpack a win that evening. To refresh, the Pack went 1 of 6 from the line, including missing the front end of a one-and-one, during a 12-5 Indiana run that turned a 63-56 Wolfpack advantage into a 68-68 tie.
NC State shot just 13 of 20 from the free throw line at Stanford for 65.0 percent. With the Pack leading 63-55 with 6:06 left, the Cardinals went on a 16-1 run over the next 5:30. State went 1 of 5 from the line during that run, and that included Painter missing the front end of one-and-one.
Conversely, Stanford scored its final 13 points of the game from the line, missing just two during that stretch.
NC State is shooting 69.5 percent from the line for the season.
Scott Wood foul trouble
NC State junior wing Scott Wood fouled out for the second game in a row. He played just 25 minutes, making 3 of 8 shots, including 2 of 5 three-pointers, for eight points. Wood had fouled out twice in his entire career before the Indiana game, but if you include last season's finale against Maryland in the ACC Tournament, Wood has now been disqualified in three of the last seven games he played, and in one of those other contests, Princeton on Nov. 16, Wood sprained his ankle two minutes into the contest and did not return.
Foul trouble has been an issue for Wood this season. He was whistled for four fouls against UNC Asheville in the season opener Nov. 11 and versus Texas Nov. 21.
Brown also fouled out of the game for the first time this year and the second of his career.
One interesting observation early in Mark Gottfried's tenure at NC State: he's not afraid to play someone with two fouls in the first half. Wood picked up his third foul before halftime, and it's not the first time a Wolfpack player has gotten his third foul before intermission this year.
The good news
Although State would have much preferred to have won the last two games, the Pack went toe-to-toe with two solid opponents, one of the road, and for much of the game proved to be a better team. The next step in their development though is closing out games. State blew a seven-point lead to Indiana and 12-point advantage at Stanford.
Leslie continues to play well. He had 14 points and three blocks, and for much of the first half Leslie proved too difficult for Stanford to guard. Senior wing C.J. Williams also had one of his best games in a Wolfpack uniform, making 6 of 10 shots, including 3 of 6 three-pointers, for a career-high 18 points. He was one three-pointer away from matching his personal best of threes in one game.
What the loss means
NC State falls to 5-3 overall and lose their first road game of the year. They are 1-2 overall away from Raleigh, splitting a pair of games in East Rutherford, N.J. Stanford improved to 8-1 and won the first ever meeting between the two squads.
NC State is now 14-11 all-time against Pac-12 opponents. However, they have not won a game since someone from that league since 200 when State defeated Arizona State 79-68. State is 4-6 against one of the Pac-12's four California-based teams.
Other stats of note
- Stanford outrebounded NC State 40-30 overall and 17-11 on the offensive glass. It was the most lopsided rebounding deficit of the year for the Pack. The Cardinals had an 11-6 edge in second-chance points.
- State turned it over a season-high 17 times compared to just 10 for Stanford. Again, that was the worst turnover margin of the year for NCSU. Stanford had a decisive 22-10 edge in points off turnovers.
- Stanford's bench outscored NC State's reserves 22-10.
- State had the edge in the paint, 34-28.
- Neither team had many transition opportunities. Brown's dunk off a steal was the lone fast break points off the game for either team.