Let's take a look back at the highlights and lowlights from Friday's season-defining win.
Big Effort From Painter, Howell and Leslie
Coming into Friday's game, it was clear that NC State's definitive size advantage over San Diego State would be the story. Many thought the Wolfpack would be able to take advantage, and they did that and more. C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell and DeShawn Painter dominated, combining for 46 points on a 19 for 27 shooting effort.
Howell was especially dominant, scoring a season-high 22 points on 10 of 12 shooting despite sitting out the majority of the final eight minutes due to foul trouble. In the first half, however, the junior forward was efficient offensively (15 points) without picking up a single foul.
Even NC State's guards and wings got in on the dominant performance in the paint. Scott Wood scored two big layups on inbound plays and Lorenzo Brown scored some timely baskets inside in the second half. For the game, NC State finished with a 38-18 advantage in points in the paint.
Despite its lack of size, San Diego State was one of the better defensive teams in the country coming into Friday's matchup, allowing opponents to shoot just 40 percent from the field. The Wolfpack used efficient offense and, once again, their size advantage to pick apart the Aztecs defense. NC State shot a red-hot 58.5 percent (31 of 53) from the floor for the game, the fourth-highest single-game field goal percentage in NCAA Tournament history.
Richard Howell (10 of 12) and DeShawn Painter (4 of 5) combined to shoot 82 percent from the floor against the undersized Aztecs. Only C.J. Williams (3 of 7) and Alex Johnson (0 of 2) shot less than 50 percent in the game. The Wolfpack knew what they had to do to beat the Aztecs and they did it, attacking inside consistently throughout the game.
Answering The Bell
Up just four points at halftime, there were plenty of chances in the second half for NC State to allow San Diego State to take control of the game. The Aztecs whittled the Pack's lead to one possession four times over the final 20 minutes, but every time, NC State had an answer. The decisive stretch came during a three and half minute period in the second half, when the Pack pushed a 57-54 lead to 68-58 with an 11-4 spurt.
San Diego State pulled to within eight points again with 3:57 left in the game on a Chase Tapley 3-pointer, but NC State quickly pushed its lead back to double digits and closed out its win in the minutes with free throws and successful slow-down offense.
Given the Pack's struggles in late-game situations throughout the season, Friday's impressive second half showing is a perfect example of the growth of this team during Mark Gottfried's first season. Led by Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Williams, the Wolfpack were smart with the ball, broke some full-court pressure applied by the Aztecs and closed out a huge win for the program.
Cleaning The Glass
Although the casual observer would assume NC State's bigger lineup would have no trouble dominating on the boards, San Diego State was actually one of the country's better rebounding teams coming in. That wasn't the case Friday, as the Wolfpack bulled its way to a 38-29 advantage on the glass. More importantly, the Aztecs got just eight offensive rebounds and three second-chance points.
Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood and C.J. Williams were actually the leaders on the glass, combining to pull down half of the Pack's rebounds. Brown finished with a game-high nine rebounds to go along with 17 points and eight assists.
Franklin and Tapley
While it's impossible to argue with the outcome of Friday's game, NC State did struggle to stop guys that it had hoped to shut down coming into the game. Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin scored 23 points and pulled down eight rebounds, while guard Chase Tapley scored 19 points in the second half for the Aztecs.
Despite that, however, only one other San Diego State player -- James Rohon -- finished in double figures. He scored 11. NC State's defense, especially in the interior, was very solid. San Diego State players not named Jamaal Franklin or Chase Tapley finished 10 of 28 from the field.
Free Throw Shooting
NC State's free throw shooting was better, especially in the final couple of minutes as the Pack put away the game, but there were opportunities at the line that could have ended things much earlier. The Pack finished 14 of 21 (66%) from the charity stripe on the day, still lower than their season average.
At some point, probably sooner than later, free throw shooting will be the difference in NC State winning and losing a game.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
While Richard Howell certainly wins the day with his season-high 22 points on 8 of 12 shooting, the most valuable player Friday afternoon was point guard Lorenzo Brown. The sophomore was patient offensively against a solid San Diego State backcourt and finished with 17 points, a game-high nine rebounds and eight assists.
Brown was good in crucial times, too, leading the way during the Pack's 11-4 run in the second half and in the final three minutes as NC State worked the clock.
STAT OF THE GAME
NC State's ability to hit shots was the story of the day, and the Pack's 58 percent shooting performance ended up being the stat of the game. Only once this season, on Nov. 11 against UNC-Asheville, did the Wolfpack finish with a better shooting percentage from the floor.
NC State returns to the court at Nationwide Arena Sunday for a matchup with third-seeded Georgetown, who took down 14th-seeded Belmont Friday afternoon. The Hoyas (24-8), who finished the regular season tied for fourth in the Big East, got 21 points from Jason Clark and 15 from Henry Sims in their 74-59 victory over Belmont.