Inserted into the starting lineup, sophomore Richard Howell was a difference maker all game for the Wolfpack.
The burly, 6-foot-8 forward hit 8-of-11 shots for 17 points and grabbed five boards with an assist in 27 minutes of action. He scored on the block, in transition, and on offensive rebounds. Miami really didn't have anyone who could defend Howell, who was effective versus Miami's man or zone defense.
"Richard was excellent today," said Tracy Smith. "They just didn't have anybody that could defend Rich."
"Richard was really good," Sidney Lowe stated after the game. "He started with great energy, rebounding, passing, and scoring. I thought he got a little tired... but he was really good. Richard is another player that understands what we're doing offensively and defensively."
PLAYER OF THE GAME - MIAMI
Miami actually had two players wit big-time performances in Reggie Johnson and Malcolm Grant, but Johnson was particularly effective on both ends of the floor.
The 6-foot-10, 300-pound sophomore center isn't very athletic, but he is massive, has soft hands, and can finish around the basket. He's also very solid from the free throw line and can block shots defensively.
Johnson scored 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the field, and he also grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds. Defensively he tallied five blocks and one steal, and Johnson created problems for Tracy Smith, who hit just 6-of-14 shots from the field.
PLAY OF THE GAME
NC State led by two with 14 seconds left and Miami had the basketball. State had a foul to give and the plan was for the Wolfpack to force the shooters off the 3-point line and make them drive to the basket for a tough two-point attempt and ensuring at least overtime or a potential game-winning possession for State.
Miami was able to work the ball into the corner to its top 3-point shooter, Malcolm Grant, who had hit 5-of-5 three's up to that point. Scott Wood defended it perfectly, aggressively pressuring Grant off the 3-point line and making him drive down the baseline towards the basket, where the help was at.
A foul wasn't called on the pressure, Grant turned the corner, and tried to force a pass to Reggie Johnson. Tracy Smith defended Johnson on the play and forced a loose ball and Smith was on the floor trying to recover as time expired.
"[Grant] just went on and tried to make a play," said Miami head coach Frank Haith. "It was a double screen and they covered it up. I thought we had Rion Brown in the corner. [Grant] just didn't get it to him."
"We told our guys we had one (foul) to give," said Lowe. "If they catch it when you go, go for ball, if Thomas gets it. If Grant gets it on the perimeter, you get up in him. If he puts it on the ground you really go for the ball, try to get a steal."
NC State forced Miami to use up the final 14 seconds without getting a shot off and preserved the 72-70 win.
STAT OF THE GAME
56.7%. Miami hit an astounding 17-of-30 shots in the second half to work its way back from a nine-point halftime deficit.
In fact, State built a 17-point lead with 12:23 remaining, but Miami hit 14-of-18 to the end the game and took a one-point lead with just over a minute to go in the contest on an offensive putback by point guard Durand Scott.
However, NC State basically did what it had to do on Miami's final two possessions... not allow the Canes to get a shot off. After State regained the lead on a Tracy Smith layup, point guard Ryan Harrow stripped Scott while he attacked the basket and Miami was unable to put up a shot on the game's final play.
The Hurricanes fought back by hitting deep jumpers and going with its strongest offensive lineup. Haith inserted reserves Rion Brown and Adrian Thomas, two of the team's best three-pointer shooters, into the lineup with his trio of stars: Durand Scott, Reggie Johnson, and Malcolm Grant.
Haith spread the floor with Grant, Brown, and Thomas spotting up as shooters, preventing help defense, and allowed Scott and Johnson to run a high ball screen from the middle of the floor. Scott continued to attack the basket and either scored, found a shooter, or had Johnson there to score on the rebound or posting back up.
In the final minute Lowe inserted in C.J. Williams and Richard Howell for defensive help and Williams defended Scott extremely well, going under the Johnson screen in an attempt to make Scott re-start the offense or take the deep shot, not exactly his strongest asset.
"We went with a defensive group and those guys executed it perfectly," said Lowe. "The last minute and a half or so I made a defensive change, I put C.J. Williams in and Richard Howell in. Those guys are more experienced, they know what to do and they did the right thing defensively."
NC State (12-7, 2-3 ACC) hits the road for a quick turnaround game at Clemson (13-6, 2-3 ACC) down in Littlejohn Coliseum tomorrow at 7:00 pm.
The Tigers had a rough week, losing two conference road games at North Carolina (75-65) and at Maryland (79-77). In Brad Brownell's first season Clemson has been a solid, yet unspectacular team led by guards Demontez Stitt (13.7 ppg, 3.3 apg) and Andre Young (10.9 ppg, 3.3 apg). Both are 40%+ 3-point shooters so the Wolfpack will once again need to defend the 3-point shot if it hopes to leave Clemson with a victory.
In their last win, a 87-62 home victory over Georgia Tech, the Tigers shot a blistering 69% from the field and hit 11-of-14 (78.6%) 3-point field goals, including all nine attempts in the second half.
Clemson can also throw it inside to senior center Jerai Grant when teams do take away the deep jumper. Grant is having a breakout season, as he is averaging 12.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks a game while shooting 59.7% from the field.
The Tigers are 12-2 and 2-0 in home games this season.