It wasn't pretty, but Sidney Lowe was definitely glad to walk off the floor Saturday night with the win.
His Wolfpack team led for much of the game, including a 16-point halftime advantage, but Austin Peay used a late rally to cut the lead down to four before the Pack iced it away with a big bucket and several free throws.
Behind great play from Tracy Smith and Dennis Horner, NC State was able to score in the paint and from the perimeter while playing a stifling man-to-man defense to take the double-digit halftime lead. The Pack closed out the half on a 19-7 run and never looked back.
State limited Austin Peay to just seven first half field goals on 20 attempts while hitting 15-of-32 prior to intermission. Balanced scoring and efficient offense keyed the 37-21 halftime lead, but Austin Peay came out in the second half and was able to get into the paint and create some problems for NC State's defense.
Austin Peay's top player, guard Wesley Channels, was held scoreless in the first half but hit 5-of-8 second half field goals to finish with 12 points. Forward Anthony Campbell led the Govs with 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the floor, and Austin Peay shot a blistering 59% from the field in the second half to make things interesting.
Campbell hit back-to-back buckets which cut State's lead to four with just over a minute left, but Smith converted an "old-fashioned" three-point play on an offensive putback that pushed the lead back to seven and sealed the win for the Wolfpack.
The 6-foot-8 junior continued his strong start to the season, as his 16 points and seven rebounds paced the Wolfpack. Senior forward Dennis Horner added 15, including ten in the second half, and freshman wing Scott Wood chipped in 10. Junior guard Javy Gonzalez had another solid floor game, finishing with six points, four rebounds, and a game-high eight assists.
State did a much better job taking care of the basketball in the win. After turning it over 25 times Friday night in the win over Akron, the Pack had just 11 turnovers against the Govs.
"Sometimes with a young team you run into games like this," said NC State head coach Sidney Lowe. "I told the team its an art (to win a game), it doesn't just happen. We have to learn to play with the lead, and put teams away.
"We knew they would keep coming back, but down the stretch we got the baskets we needed to win."
NC State improved to 3-0 on the season and returns to the hardwood Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. against Auburn. The Tigers are coming off an 80-65 victory over IUPUI.