Is it Mark Gottfried’s goal at NC State to winning every game this season in the last five minutes? Probably not, but the Wolfpack are showing signs of progress coming off the court with a win 69-65 win over UCONN last night. It simply seemed right for NC State, the team that Jim Valvano led to the 1983 NCAA tournament championship, to close out this season’s Jimmy V week with a solid win after a rough start to the season.
The Pack showed they had game last week in a tough loss against No. 3 Michigan, the Pack having dominated the last five minutes of the game. It was a much-needed “show of force” after losing in Puerto Rico to OSU and after a close win at home over UNC Asheville. The preseason No. 6 Wolfpack were ready to fall off the top 25 rankings had they not shown up to play last night at the Madison Square Garden.
But show up to play they did. NC State dominated the last ten minutes of the game with a solid offensive push that got them the lead over the Huskies—a lead they didn’t lose afterwards. The Pack came out strong in offense with CJ Leslie and Lorenzo Brown each taking in 16 points, Leslie 13 rebounds. UCONN’s Shabazz Napier (Jr., G) proved to be the toughest challenge for NC State landing 19 points and killing the three-point shot all game long. It wasn’t until the second half that the Wolfpack defense was able to shut down Napier’s 3-point machine.
NC State’s Richard Howell had to leave the game ten minutes into the first half after receiving an elbow blow to the neck by teammate CJ Leslie as CJ came back down from a rebound attempt. Detecting nothing more than a neck bruise, Richard Howell came out strong in the second half with 13 points and 10 rebounds. It took just one look at the 6-foot-8, 257 pound senior forward to tell that he carried the energy of the team with him. With Howell back on beast-mode, the momentum of the second half began to shift towards North Carolina State.
The Wolfpack head back to Raleigh for a much-needed six-game series at home, kicking off on Saturday against Cleveland (1:00PM). Afterwards, NC State will begin conference play at Boston College on Jan. 5th. Key game points to work on before conference play for the Wolfpack? Defense. Defense. Defense. And Free throws.