Returning to the basketball court might have been the best thing for the NC State men's basketball team.
The Wolfpack players needed to erase the memory of Florida's Chandler Parsons' winning last Sunday's game 62-61 with a 75-foot shot at the buzzer in overtime. NC State was playing Holy Cross, but during the first few minutes of the game, the specter of Parsons' shot helped sapped some of the energy out of the RBC Center.
NC State (11-4 overall) played a sluggish first half, but got the jolt of energy needed to cruise to an 87-70 victory over Holy Cross in front of 10,205 fans at the RBC Center. The "Second half Pack" shot 19 of 32 after halftime, including 7 of 11 from the three-point line to continue a trend through the first 15 games.
Fifth-year senior shooting guard Farnold Degand responded with one of his best games of his Wolfpack career. He had 12 points, nine assists, four rebounds, two steals and a block in 29 minutes off the bench. Degand missed a free throw with 2.6 seconds left against the Gators that would have at least clinched a second overtime.
"It was definitely hard [to forget about the free throws]," Degand said. "I was thinking about it throughout the whole time that we were off. I told myself to come out and play hard, and if I get another opportunity, don't miss them.
"After that loss the other day, it definitely took a lot out of us emotionally, and we had to watch it all day on SportsCenter the next day. We definitely came ready to play."
Senior power forward Dennis Horner scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half, showing off shades of the North Carolina Greensboro game Dec. 31, when he played similarly. Horner also had four of the team's 11 blocked shots., and added six rebounds and went 2 of 4 from three-point range.
Horner said the last few days have been tough.
"We were just getting out with our defense and getting fastbreak opportunities before they could set up their zone," Horner said. "Once they were in their zone, we were just knocking down shots. We got easy shots playing inside-out.
"We should have come out stronger. We should have come out and played as hard as possible and not allow that [the UF loss] happen again."
Junior center Tracy Smith added 11 of his 19 points in the second half, and sophomore point guard Julius Mays had 10 of his 15 off the bench after halftime.
NC State went on a 16-2 run following halftime to open up a 49-34 lead, and never looked back. Junior point guard Javier Gonzalez scored all five of his points during the run, which was punctuated by a dunk by freshman small forward Josh Davis.
Holy Cross cut it to 52-45 with 10:44 left, and that was the closest the Crusaders got following the run.
NC State coach Sidney Lowe didn't expect too much of a hangover from the Florida loss, but understood it's human nature to respond slowly after such a heart-breaking defeat.
"I wasn't worried," said Lowe, who was pleased that his team went 11 of 12 at the free-throw line. "I thought we had a good practice. The guys were upbeat. I guess there was a little carryover judging by how we played in the first half. I told our guys, good teams bounce back from tough losses, and take it out on the next opponent."
Five NC State players finished in double figures, including 10 from freshman small forward Scott Wood. Degand earned the start in the second half in place of scoreless sophomore C.J. Williams, and provided a spark against the Crusaders (3-12) zone defense.
The backcourt trio of Gonzalez, Degand and Mays, combined to go 6 of 10 from three-point land en route to 32 points.
"Farnold did a great job today," Lowe said. "He's been playing well the last few games. We started him in the second half, and we came out playing much better. He gives you that speed and quickness. He was the difference in our team today.
"The combination of Julius and Farnold was working today. I told my guys if you're playing well, you're going to stay in the game. They're starting to realize it."
Holy Cross stuck around thanks to some superb shooting from three-point land - 10 of 17 for 58 percent. Sophomore guard Devin Brown came off the bench for 21 points and three assists in 24 minutes, going 4 of 6 from three-point range.
Sophomore point guard R.J. Evans added 13 points and seven boards, sophomore wing Mike Cavataio had 11 points, nine rebounds and three assists, and junior shooting guard Andre Beinert went 3 of 5 from beyond the arc en route to 11 points.
"It was certainly a terrific outing by the home team tonight," Holy Cross coach Sean Kearney said. "I thought we had a very good start in the first half. We may not have shot it well, but to go in at halftime only down by two was big. I thought our changing defenses bothered them, especially in the zone, and then certainly they didn't shoot it well in that first segment."
NC State shot 19 of 32 from the field in the second half for 59.4 percent, including an impressive 7 of 11 from three-point range. The Wolfpack shot 33 of 64 for the game (51.6 percent), and 10 of 23 from beyond the arc (43.5).
NC State returns to action against Virginia on Saturday at the RBC Center, for its second ACC game of the season.