A Scott Wood put back with 2.1 seconds to play put the Wolfpack up two and secured NC State's seventh victory of the season. Wood's first points of the night certainly couldn't have come at a better time. After Ryan Harrow missed a three from the right wing, Wood swooped in and pulled down the rebound before putting it back up from about eight feet.
"Shots just didn't fall, but I guess I got the one that mattered," Wood said of his 1 of 7 shooting performance. "I feel like it's almost a bail-out for the way we won the game. Really we probably shouldn't have even won the game."
A half-court heave from Jay Threatt would have given Delaware State the victory, but the shot hit the front of the rim and bounced away, allowing NC State -- and everyone inside the RBC Center -- to catch its breath.
Head coach Sidney Lowe said he thought of just one thing when Delaware State's last chance was in the air -- last year's loss to Florida on a buzzer beater by Chandler Parsons.
"Im just glad that we won that ball game. That was a tough one," Lowe said. "We had trouble finishing some plays inside. We made a lot of mistakes defensively, allowing some open shots and it almost cost us the game."
Richard Howell scored a career-high 16 points for the Wolfpack, who dominated the undersized Hornets inside for much of the night. Playing at center, Howell finished 6 of 10 from the field and pulled down five rebounds in 24 minutes.
"I decided to play him at five with C.J. Leslie," Lowe said. "Overall, Richard Howell played well for us."
C.J. Leslie added 15 points on 6 of 9 shooting and pulled down nine rebounds while DeShawn Painter tallied 14 points and nine rebounds. The Wolfpack outscored the Hornets 44-18 in the paint despite not having Tracy Smith for the ninth straight game.
Although the Wolfpack led 39-29 at the half, seven second half turnovers, numerous defensive breakdowns and 19 free throw attempts allowed the Hornets to stay in the game.
"We told our guys don't leave the three-point shooters," Lowe said. "We had several guys that pinched in where the guy caught the ball and knocked it down. That's a mental mistake and we cant afford to make those mistakes."
Casey Walker led the Hornets with 20 points while Desi Washington added 18. The two combined to hit six of Delaware State's nine three-pointers.
And while NC State shot 40 percent in the second half, the Wolfpack missed several easy baskets, misses that proved to be costly late in the game after Delaware State made its run in the final seven minutes.
Senior point guard Javi Gonzalez said there is no reason the Wolfpack should have needed a bucket in the final two seconds to beat the Hornets.
"We got players -- no excuses," he said. "Tracy is missed here and he's a lot of help but we've got guys that can play and it shouldn't be happening against Delaware State no matter how many guys we got hurt."
Lowe said NC State did not take advantage of the size difference in the second half as well as it could have against the Hornets. Delaware State had just three players taller than 6'6".
"The second half, they took some things away and we didn't pass the ball," he said. "I thought we took some poor shots in the post area. If you cant take advantage of a 6'3" guy how are you going toy take advantage of 6'8" or 6'9" guy once conference play starts."
With just three games remaining before conference play begins against Wake Forest Jan. 8, the opportunities for NC State to show marked improvement are dwindling. A tough early season ACC schedule makes the final three non-conference games -- against Alabama A&M, San Diego and Elon -- that much more important.
"We need to improve. We need to take bigger, longer steps, especially when I think we have an advantage," Lowe said. "We've got to get better and not put ourselves in that situation."