TSX: Leslie Bounces Back

Getting sent to the bench periodically seems to have worked wonders for North Carolina State freshman C.J. Leslie.

After starting off the season big, scoring 21 points in the Wolfpack's opening victory over Tennessee Tech, the 6-8 forward went into a bit of a funk.

He scored only 20 points over his next three games combined, all starts, and coach Sidney Lowe didn't start him against Fairleigh Dickinson.

He started but struggled against Wisconsin (two points, four rebounds), but rebounded with his first double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds) in coming off the bench in the loss to Syracuse.

He was back in the starting lineup for USC Upstate and responded with 13 points and a game-high seven rebounds in the Wolfpack's 79-60 victory.

"I spoke with C.J. before the game in my office about going forward and continuing to grow," Lowe said. "With C.J., it's all about the mindset and keeping him engaged mentally. He's definitely showing some growth and maturing."

Leslie, one of the gems of the recruiting class, is a key player for the Wolfpack, which has been without returning starter Tracy Smith since the third game of the season. When Smith does get back, he and Leslie will give the 'Pack one of the more formidable frontcourts in the conference.

The 'Pack has a tough game with Arizona on Dec. 19 coming up mixed in with some soft touches before getting into ACC play on Jan. 8 when Wake Forest visits.


-- North Carolina State freshman Lorenzo Brown, the team's No. 2 scorer, didn't start for the first time this season when the Wolfpack lost to Syracuse. But he returned to the starting lineup against USC Upstate and scored 17 points, nearly twice his production of his previous two games combined, in N.C. State's 79-70 victory.

-- Freshman G Ryan Harrow is giving the 'Pack a big lift off the bench. He was the team's No. 3 scorer (10.8 ppg) through the first eight games and scored 20 points in the win over USC Upstate that ended the 'Pack's week layoff for exams. He also had five assists.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Senior F Tracy Smith has returned to workouts following his arthroscopic knee surgery on Nov. 19. He looks to begin working his way back into action, possibly as soon as Dec. 16 when Youngstown State visits. Smith, who averaged 15.8 points and 7.3 rebounds last season, had 10 points and eight rebounds in the opener but was injured six minutes into the 'Pack's second game.

KEY CONFERENCE GAME: Jan. 11 at Boston College -- If the Wolfpack wants to be considered a serious contender in the ACC, it needs to show it can beat beatable teams, like BC, even on the road. With its conference opener at home against a vulnerable Wake Forest team, the 'Pack has the opportunity to get off to a 2-0 start before having to play at Florida State, another team with hopes of finishing among the top four, in its third game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's good with the ball. He can create opportunities. He's a great passer. He creates shots for himself. Right now, it's just knowing when to do it. He's learning. He hasn't gotten it down just yet, but he's learning when to do it or when to get it to somebody else." -- Coach Sidney Lowe, on freshman G Ryan Harrow

5-11, ninth place (tie)

LINEUP BREAKDOWN: The Wolfpack has been without returning starter Tracy Smith for all but two games in the early going. C DeShawn Painter, a 6-9 sophomore started six games in Smith's place, but coach Sidney Lowe has done some other juggling, too. He has used five different lineups through eight games with senior G Javier Gonzalez and sophomore G Scott Wood the only two players who have started every outing.

The 'Pack has shot the ball well enough in the early going (44.7 percent overall), and Wood gives it one of the top three-point threats in the league. He was shooting 44.1 percent from behind the arc through eight games.

But the 'Pack has struggled on the boards at times. Opponents won the rebounding in half of the first eight games and had a plus-two advantage overall for the season.

-- Senior G Javier Gonzalez sustained an abdominal strain four minutes into the game against USC Upstate and ended up playing only 14 minutes. He missed all three of his field goal attempts but made four of six free throws.

-- Sophomore G Scott Wood took nothing but three-point shots in the games against Syracuse and USC Upstate. He was 9 of 19 from behind the arc. His 15 attempts against Syracuse (six made) were a career high.

-- Freshman G Lorenzo Brown has had six assists in a game four times this season.

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