Fueled by C.J. Leslie’s 18-point performance, State reeled off a 28-2 run over a span of 8:57 in the second half to take the 77-74 win over Texas in the consolation game of the TicketCity Classic.
In a crowd that was so small that one could literally hear a child coughing in the stands, State dug down and found a confidence that hasn’t been seen since the days of Hodge.
State was down ten at the half and didn’t look any better to start the second, as Texas jumped out to an 18-point lead at the 11:42 mark. The Red and White looked dead but treaded water until the 8:30 mark when ole Clemson nemesis Rick Barnes, was called for a technical foul. With C.J. (err…Calvin) Leslie already at the line, Scott Wood stepped up and swooshed the two technical free throws, followed by Leslie hitting his original two shots. With possession still with the Pack, State was able to get back-to-back treys from Wood and Alex Johnson to cut the lead to four.
N.C. State would then tie the game at 67 and took the lead for good following a DeShawn Painter jumper with 5:24 left.
A negative that can come out of the last two games is the late game execution by the Pack. In the opening contest, the Commodores ended up dominating the last 2:30, coming away with the seven-point win. State tried to give away the game to Texas as Lorenzo Brown coughed up the ball in the final minute, C.J. Leslie clanked two free throws and Richard Howell swatted at the desperation three-pointer that could have been considered goaltending. State is going to have to work on late game situations if they are going to be contenders in the ACC.
State also has to be slightly concerned with the performance of the 2-3 zone. In the Vanderbilt game and in the first half against Texas, State allowed the opponents to shoot 53.8 percent from the field. Granted in the final stanza the Pack held the Longhorns to 37 percent but still the Red and White must be more stringent on defense.
Let’s put this game and the tournament into context. C.J (or Calvin) Leslie has only been back two games. Thomas De Thaey literally flew up to New Jersey and put on a jersey today after being cleared by the NCAA. Scott Wood hasn’t practiced since the Princeton game because of the ankle twist, sprain or whatever you want to call it. If Wood plays against Vanderbilt the Pack is 4-0 and would be playing Oregon State for the tournament championship.
This game was a huge step forward for a young Gottfried team. The fight that the team showed was consistent with the fire we see on the sidelines. Every State fan is getting the opportunity to see a program transform in front of their eyes and after seeing the first five games, we all have something to look forward to when it comes to the ACC slate.
Heading into the Elon game, look for State to be refining the offense and for Howell, Leslie, Wood and Painter to continue to mold together as a starting lineup. One cannot overlook the Phoenix though as they defeated South Carolina at home just last week.