JOHNSON: Sweet Balance

NC State got contributions from everyone in its starting lineup as it upset Georgetown and moved on to the Sweet 16.

There was no hero on Sunday afternoon. There were five.

No one put the team on its shoulders and carried them to the Sweet 16. They all got there together, each making big plays when the team it in the biggest game any of them had ever played as a collegiate player.

Balancing the pressure of the day got all of them where they would have never gotten trying to do it alone – into the Sweet 16.

"You never think you're going to be this far from where you were last year," Scott Wood said. "But I think we did a good job of coming together. Coach did a good job of putting in the system and gaining the trust of his players, and we just continued to get better."

Even lately as the Pack lifted its play down the stretch in March, not everyone was clicking together. Wood would have a stretch of good games, then struggle. CJ Williams went into a slump for a couple of weeks. There were great individual performances throughout, but on Sunday the Pack had its best team performance of the season.

Let's start with Williams, who had been mired in a brutal shooting slump since the Clemson game. The senior, perhaps pressing too much trying to make his first ever NCAA tournament, was shooting under 30 percent since that game. He also hadn't scored in double figures once since then. But on Sunday he scored 14 points including a pair of big 3s and managed to get the Pack some easy baskets in the half court by sneaking behind the long Georgetown defense.

"I told C.J., like, we had three minutes left in the game," Lorenzo Brown said. "I told him this is not his last game. And he said he knows that. He's ready to make some big shots, get some rebounds. And he just played his heart out today."

Meanwhile Brown continued in his role of ice-cold closer for the team. He wants the ball in his hands at the end of games, and Sunday he showed why. When Georgetown started fouling, it was Brown they were putting at the line. The sophomore guard was up to the challenge, hitting 5-of-7 at the charity stripe in the last 71 seconds to seal the win for the Pack.

Just as important was his baseline floater that carried over the backboard and swished through the hoop. Between degree of difficulty and importance (the shot helped hold back a Georgetown run in the final minutes), it was probably the most impressive shot in the tournament to date.

"My goal was to get to the rim," Brown said. "I felt I was pushed a little bit, so I just threw it up to see if they called the foul, but it went in, so I wasn't complaining."

While Brown sealed the win, CJ Leslie keyed the first-half comeback that gave the Pack the lead in the first place. The Pack trailed by 10 at one point in the first half, only to close on a 15-2 run led by Leslie. The sophomore forward had two steals on the perimeter, one that closed the half with a transition dunk to put the Pack up by three.

"That's Calvin being Calvin," Gottfried said. "We wanted to pressure them as much as we could, especially their bigs. Anytime their bigs were away from the basket, we felt like we were quick enough to get after them a little bit on the perimeter and disrupt their passing."

But what disrupted their offense more than anything was having Henry Sims, the point-forward who leads the team in steals and is the catalyst for their Princeton system, saddled on the bench with foul trouble. For that the Pack can thank Richard Howell, who drew two quick fouls on Sims in the first half and kept him on the bench for much of the game. Despite struggling from the field, Howell's rebounding and his attacking of Sims played a huge role in the Pack's victory on Sunday.

"We know Sims is a big part of their team, and he's kind of like their point guard, as well as their big man," Brown said. "And we wanted to pressure him the whole game and get him in foul trouble. Our bigs did a great job at that."

Finally there's Wood, who's struggles have been discussed ad nauseam over the last few weeks. His shooting success correlates strongly to the Pack's winning percentage, so there was no surprise that the Pack walked away with a win on the same day he went 4-of-5 from behind the arc. The Pack is now a perfect 10-0 when Wood hits four or more 3-pointers in a game.

"They were doing a good job delivering it where I needed it," Wood said. "And a couple were off offensive rebounds, and anytime the defense gets scrambled there, it's easy for me to find an open crease."

The entire starting line-up did its job on Sunday. Because of that balance, that unselfishness in the big moment, the Pack dances on to the Sweet 16.

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