Playing only its second home game of the season, the Wolfpack used back-to-back 3-pointers from Javi Gonzalez to key a 27-7 second-half run and blow past New Orleans 69-52 on Sunday afternoon at the RBC Center. The win moves the Wolfpack to a perfect 5-0 as it moves into the month of December.
"I've just been getting in the gym trying to get as many shots as I could because I know this team is going to need me to score the basketball," Gonzalez said.
While Gonzalez's shooting might have keyed the decisive run, it was his eight assists and just two turnovers that helped to steady the sometimes erratic offense.
"In the first half we got stops but we just walked the ball up the floor and when we would get set it was a little harder to score the basketball," Gonzalez said. "As soon as we started pushing the ball and getting easy baskets it made the game a lot easier."
The Pack shot 47 percent from the floor and hit on 8-of-16 from behind the 3-point line, while the Privateers shot just 35 percent from the floor and 31 percent from behind the arc. The two teams were even on the boards with 33 a piece but the Pack dominated underneath the basket, blocking a season-high 14 shots against New Orleans.
"It's crucial to have guys back there that can take care of the basket for you," Lowe said. "Our bigs did a great job of that and I was really proud of the effort that they gave us today around the basket."
Tracy Smith again led the team with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting while picking up eight boards and blocking three shots. Gonzalez finished the day with 13 points while CJ Williams had a season high with 12 points, hitting 3-of-5 from 3-point range. Dennis Horner was the other Wolfpack player to score in double figures, getting 10 points and as well as four blocks.
The game also marked the debut of freshman Richard Howell, who had been sidelined since the preseason with a knee injury. Howell played seven minutes, all in the second half, and showed no ill effects on his way to scoring two points and grabbing two rebounds.
"When he said my name I didn't think he said it – I thought he made a mistake or something," Howell said. "I got pretty nervous, but after I got in there it kind of went away."
The one player still absent from the court on Sunday was point guard Farnold Degand. The senior was wearing street clothes and sitting on the bench, and Lowe said the guard is making progress as he continues to get his academics in order before returning to the line-up.
Now the Pack has just one day off before facing off against Northwestern on Tuesday night in the ACC Big Ten Challenge. The ACC has won all 10 previous challenges, but the Pack did not participate last season after finishing last in the conference in 2007.
The Pack came out firing on all cylinders, with Smith leading the way scoring six of the Pack's first 11 points. The home team used a 9-0 run early on to take a double-digit lead and held onto that margin through most of the half despite some sloppy play. New Orleans attempted only two free-throws in the first half while the Pack hit on 12-of-16 attempts, helping Lowe's team take a 34-24 lead into the locker room.
The Privateers cut the Pack lead down to seven points coming out of the half before the Pack offense awoke from its slump. Gonzalez keyed the Pack's run with back-to-back 3-pointers as his team put together an 11-0 streak then followed it a few minutes later with another 10-0 run. Those two offensive spurts effectively put the game away, continuing the Pack's perfect start to the season.