Observations From The Game: Wake Forest

RALEIGH, N.C. -- After cruising past Wake Forest 81-66, NC State has now won six out of seven games. Here are some thoughts and observations from the win.

HIGHLIGHTS
Glass Work

NC State has been a dominant rebounding team since inserting T.J. Warren in the lineup, and that continued on Wednesday. Even with Richard Howell, the ACC's best rebounder, grabbing just five boards, State was able to win the battle on the glass, and it played a big role in the game's outcome.

NC State outrebounded Wake Forest by nine (39-30), and the Wolfpack totaled 16 offensive rebounds, turning them into 22 second-chance points. The Demon Deacons were able to grab 10 offensive boards but generated just five second-chance points. That +17 advantage for the Wolfpack in second-chance points was huge.

How did they do it? It was a team effort. Warren and Lorenzo Brown both grabbed six rebounds and C.J. Leslie had a team-high 10. Rodney Purvis even chipped in, snatching four rebounds in 23 minutes.

Also, when the Wolfpack grabbed offensive boards they didn't miss the putbacks, a problem that has plagued them in losses this season. The ability to turn offensive rebounds into points was critical for the Wolfpack.

Frosh Were Factors
T.J. Warren and Rodney Purvis were very, very good for the Wolfpack. The talented freshmen duo contributed in a variety of areas.

Warren stuffed the stat sheet. The 6-foot-8 forward finished with 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field, grabbed six rebounds, had four steals and also added two assists in 35 minutes of action. Rotating between wing forward and power forward, Warren used his size and strength to score around the basket and also was effective on the perimeter, both offensively and defensively.

Warren has now started five straight games for the Wolfpack, and over that span he's averaging 16.6 points and 7.8 rebounds while shooting 61% from the field.

Purvis came off the bench and instantly provided a spark. He finished with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting, and he knocked down 3-of-4 3-point attempts. The 6-foot-4 guard also added four rebounds and an assist in 23 minutes. Purvis was assertive and aggressive in both the halfcourt and transition.

Like Warren, he has been playing well. Purvis is averaging 13.7 points and three rebounds in the Pack's recent three-game winning streak and has hit 65% of his shots.

Sharing The Wealth
NC State was extremely unselfish in the win, and it all starts with junior point guard Lorenzo Brown. His willingness to make the extra pass can be contagious, and the Wolfpack shared the ball all game.

Brown, who finished with a game-high seven assists, was at his best in transition, where he found slashers attacking the basket and shooters spotting up for open looks. He does a great job of centering the basketball and the Pack players know to run the court because Brown will find them.

NC State finished with 17 assists on 31 made baskets, and six players had assists with Brown and C.J. Leslie (four) leading the way. Compare that to Wake Forest... the Deacs had just nine assists on 28 made baskets with those nine coming from only three players.

The Pack's willingness to share the basketball from all positions makes them extremely dangerous moving forward.

LOWLIGHTS
Second Half Defense

NC State allowed 51 points in their shocking loss in Winston-Salem, and they pointed out that they wanted to be better defensively this time out. For much of the game they were. The Pack was disruptive and forced some turnovers, but in the second half they didn't have the same intensity they had in the first 20 minutes.

The Demon Deacons scored just 24 points in the first half on 37% shooting. State forced 10 turnovers but also limited their own turnovers (5) which kept Wake Forest from generating easy baskets.

In the second half, the Pack took their foot off the pedal and Wake capitalized. State only forced four turnovers and had nine of their own that Wake turned into 15 points (after only having two points off turnovers in the first half}. The Deacs also hit 54.5% of their shots, and the game might have become interesting if State wasn't able to shoot 50% from the field themselves.

NC State needs to cut down on the defensive lapses, but also the offensive miscues that can lead to easy offense for the opposition.

Pack Starts Slow
It was Senior Night in Raleigh and maybe that played a role, but NC State came out sluggish and "off" to start the game.

Wake wasn't playing great, but the Deacs were able to hit a couple of quick transition three-pointers and actually jumped out to a 12-5 lead six minutes into the game, forcing Mark Gottfried to call a timeout.

Whatever Gottfried told his team... it worked. NC State came out of the 30-second timeout and used a 23-4 run to build a 28-16 lead over the next ten minutes and never looked back.

Early on the Wolfpack wasn't forcing turnovers, settling for jumpers, had three offensive fouls, and wasn't in sync. They turned up the defensive intensity and that led to easy scoring chances for a team that can put the ball in the basket.

PLAYER OF THE GAME
NC State junior C.J. Leslie was outstanding. The 6-foot-9 forward was aggressive early on both ends, and eventually his length and athleticism proved to be too much for Wake Forest.

Leslie, who played 34 minutes, finished with 19 points (8-of-15), 10 rebounds, four assists, four blocks, a steal and zero turnovers. That's the type of statline an engaged C.J. Leslie can give NC State against any team in the country, and the Pack will need him to continue playing both ends of the floor moving forward because he is a difference maker.

What was perhaps most impressive was the balance in Leslie's game. In the first half he totaled 11 points and six rebounds with two blocks and an assist on 4-of-8 shooting from the field. In the second half he had eight points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field with four rebounds, two blocks, and three assists.

Leslie was consistent, under control, and played with a high-motor. That is a problem for the opposition.

"I thought [C.J. Leslie] was really unselfish," said Mark Gottfried. "He rebounded well, he didn't have a turnover, he blocked four shots... I thought he was active. It was nice to see him play well. That was good."

STAT OF THE GAME
NC State totaled 22 second-chance points in the win and held Wake Forest to just five second-chance points.

QUOTE OF THE GAME
NC State Head Coach Mark Gottfried On Seniors Scott Wood And Richard Howell

"It was very rewarding for me with those two guys because they epitomize what you want in a basketball player in that they are tremendously unselfish.

"Their motive is to win, and the individual things that are going to come for them, they trust that if they just try to win those things will come later. Not all players are like that. Those guys have done it the right way. I'm very proud of both those two."

MOVING FORWARD
Next up for NC State (22-8, 11-6) is a road game at Florida State (15-14, 7-9) on Saturday at 2:00 pm. State's still in contention for a first round bye in the ACC Tournament, and the Wolfpack has quietly won six of the last seven games with the lone loss coming on the road at North Carolina.

"We need to play our best basketball," said Gottfried. "That's what we need to be worried about. We need to play our best basketball this time of the year. Our mindset is to break this tape down, talk about the things we've done well... go to practice tomorrow and see if we can inch forward just a little bit. That's what we're trying to do."


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