NC State sophomore C.J. Williams played perhaps his best game of the season in helping the Wolfpack upset Wake Forest 68-54 a week ago at the RBC Center.
The lanky 6-foot-6, 218-pounder from Fayetteville, N.C., came off the bench to go 4 of 8 from the field for 12 points and grabbed three rebounds in 24 minutes of action against the Demon Deacons. He hit two big three-pointers and played with confidence.
Williams and the Wolfpack resume action at 4 p.m. today at Miami, with the game televised on Raycom.
"C.J. hit the two threes and, from then on, it was good times after that," NC State fifth-year senior shooting guard Farnold Degand said.
Williams' spark off the bench was unexpected but definitely welcomed. He matched his season high of 12 points, which he also achieved against New Orleans Nov. 29 and at Arizona Dec. 23. Williams is averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 19.0 minutes of action per game.
He played a key role down the stretch last year, posting a four-game stretch in which he went a combined 9 of 15 from three-point range and averaged 10.8 points per game.
The Wolfpack hoped he would pick up where he left off, but he has struggled to find his niche this season. Williams said he has gone back to the basics to improve his shooting - 40.0 percent from the field and 27.0 from three-point range.
"My dad [Wendell Williams] came up and shot with me, and he's my old coach," Williams said. "He's been my coach since I was little. His tips, I can relate to them better because I've been with him my whole life. I shot with him a lot afterwards and I talked to the coaches often. That kind of helped me out."
Williams appeared to be in danger of falling out of the rotation after not playing against Georgia Tech Feb. 6, and then getting two minutes of mop-up time action in the loss to Virginia Tech Feb. 10. He responded by continuing to show a positive attitude. His teammates appreciate his leadership in helping them get through their own situations.
"He always has a positive attitude," NC State senior power forward Dennis Horner said. "If he isn't playing, he's on the bench cheering."
Freshman small forward Scott Wood called Williams his "shrink" this season.
"He's a great teammate," Wood said. "Anybody who has had such an up-and-down season - just talking about playing time - he was starting at the beginning of the year and then he went a game where he didn't play. We called his number [versus Wake Forest] and he knocked down shots.
"He just talks to us, whether it's me playing bad or someone else playing bad, he's always in your ear telling you to keep putting it up or that you are all right. He is always, always [positive]. It's pretty crazy. My therapist last week could have been him."
NC State has three regular-season games left and the ACC Tournament. The Wolfpack has a chance to finish strong if Williams continues to hit open jumpers, which was his specialty at Jack Britt High. Williams said the team has to continue to follow the coaches' edict of "playing to win the game."
"[After hitting jumpers], your confidence goes up and now you know that teams will have to defend you," Williams said. "We have such a great post player like Tracy [Smith], if they don't help, he is going to score the basketball. Any type of production is good for me."
NC State (15-13 overall, 3-10 ACC) at Miami (18-9 overall, 4-9 ACC)
Game time: Today, Feb. 27, 4 p.m. - BankUnited Center, Coral Gables, Fla.
PG - 10 Javi Gonzalez (5-11, Jr., 9.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.1 spg)
SG - 12 Farnold Degand (6-4, R-Sr., 6.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.6 apg)
SF - 15 Scott Wood (6-7, Fr., 8.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.6 apg)
PF - 31 Dennis Horner (6-9, Sr., 11.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.1 bpg)
C - 23 Tracy Smith (6-8, Jr., 17.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.2 bpg)
PG - 1 Durand Scott (6-5, Fr.,8.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.2 spg)
SG - 23 James Dews (6-4, Sr., 12.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.1 spg)
SF - 25 Garrius Adams (6-6, Fr., 4.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.8 spg)
PF - 45 Julian Gamble (6-9, R-Soph., 3.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 0.7, 0.7 bpg)
C - 21 Dwayne Collins (6-8, Sr., 12.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.1 bpg)
Location: Coral Gables, Fla.
2008-09 record: 19-13 overall, 7-9 ACC
2009 postseason: Lost 74-60 at Florida in the second round of the NIT
Coach: Frank Haith, sixth season at Miami and overall (106-82)
The all-time series with NC State: NC State leads 5-4
Last meeting: Miami won 72-64 on March 7, 2009, in Coral Gables, Fla.
Miami: Sophomore wing DeQuan Jones, a former Wolfpack recruiting target, played at Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler with former NC State star J.J. Hickson and current Wolfpack freshman power forward Richard Howell. Jones and Howell were teammates for one year … Gamble went to Southern Durham High, redshirt freshman center Reggie Johnson attended Winston-Salem Prep and Adams, another former NCSU recruiting target, is from Apex (N.C.) Middle Creek. Haith attended Western Alamance High in Burlington, N.C., and graduated from Elon (N.C.) College … Miami is 12-2 at home in the BankUnited Center, and has won 14 out of its last 15 there … The Hurricanes are 68-25 under Haith … The Hurricanes are 17-2 when leading at the half … Senior forward Adrian Thomas leads the ACC in three-point field goal percentage (.431) and is 12 of 22 (54.5 percent) over his last five games. Miami ranks second in the ACC with 7.7 three-pointers per game and third in the league with a .375 percentage from beyond the arc … Collins and Dews have both surpassed 1,000 career points this season … Nineteen seniors have earned degrees since Haith took over, and the Hurricanes and Duke lead the ACC with seven All-Academic team members over the last four years. Thomas and Cyrus McGowan have already earned their degrees, and Collins and Dews are on track to graduate in the spring … Scott is three assists away from becoming the second freshman and fifth Miami player to record more than 100 points, 100 rebounds and 100 assists in a single season … Miami's freshmen have made a combined 30 starts, and the sophomores have started 29 … Redshirt sophomore point guard Malcolm Grant went scoreless in seven minutes while playing for Villanova against NC State in the Old Spice Classic title game in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Wolfpack won 69-68 on Nov. 25, 2007 … Miami unveiled its new Nike HyperElite uniforms Feb. 10 in the win over Georgia Tech. The Hurricanes are one of eight college teams using the uniforms, which are 70 percent lighter than traditional uniforms.
NC State: The Wolfpack and Hurricanes split the season series last year, but only play once this season. Then freshman Julius Mays hit the game-winning three-pointer with 2.6 seconds left in overtime to give NC State a 84-81 win at the RBC Center on Jan. 27, 2009. Courtney Fells had 24 and six three-pointers, Brandon Costner had 21 and Farnold Degand added seven assists. The Hurricanes won the rematch 72-64 on March 7, 2009, in Coral Gables, Fla. Gonzalez had five three-pointers and 19 points in his homecoming game … Horner has three double-doubles for points and rebounds in his last four games, the first of his college career. He had 13 points and 16 rebounds against Virginia Tech, 19 points and 10 boards against Maryland, and 10 points and 12 rebounds against Wake Forest … NCSU snapped out of its second-half shooting slump in the upset win over Wake Forest. The Wolfpack had gone seven straight games where their shooting percentages dropped in the second half, but against the Demon Deacons, they went 12 of 23 from the field for 55.2 percent, and 5 of 7 from three-point land after halftime … NC State is slated to honor Julius Hodge, Kenny Carr and the families of Ronnie Shavlik, Bobby Speight and Dick Dickey at the next home game March 7 against Boston College. The Wolfpack have been honoring former players, coaches and teams, throughout the season in celebrating their 100th season.