Pack snaps losing streak, downs Eagles 68-52

RALEIGH -- NC State allowed a 23-point halftime lead to melt down into single digits, but pulled away from Winthrop in the final minutes to win 68-52 and snap a two-game losing skid on Tuesday night at the RBC Center.

For a breif stretch, NC State was unstoppable. Scott Wood and the Wolfpack were raining down 3-pointers on a helpless Winthrop squad, scoring 34 points in the first 11 minutes to take a 23-point lead.

"Seeing [Wood] shooting the ball the way he did kind of gave us a lift – everybody kind of got pumped up," junior guard Javi Gonzalez said.

But the Pack shooting went cold and the Eagles crept back in, cutting the lead down to as few as eight points before the Pack reasserted itself in the final minutes of the contest. While it didn't end up the perfect performance of the first few minutes, the Pack still snapped its two game losing streak with a relatively easy 68-52 win on Tuesday night at the RBC Center.

"We played well today," Lowe said. "Defensively we started off very, very good. We relaxed a little after we got up and they made a couple baskets and that took a little bit out of us. But I thought we finished the game off well.

Lowe credited the Pack's (9-3) big run to its defense, which held the Eagles (5-7) to just 32 percent shooting from the floor and 17 percent from the behind the arc. The Pack shot 49 percent from the floor and 48 percent from 3-point range in the win.

Tracy Smith returned from his one-game suspension, a game the Pack lost on a last-second lay-up, scoring nine points and grabbing six rebounds but going just 1-for-4 from the charity stripe. Dennis Horne led the Pack with 12 points but the scoring was evenly distributed as Smith, Scott Wood and Farnold Degand all scored nine points while Javi Gonzalez added eight points while leading the team with 10 rebounds. Richard Howell set a career high with 11 points and also grabbed seven rebounds, even hitting his second 3-pointer of the season.

"I hope they don't respect [my jumper], I'd like to just sit out there and shoot the 3-pointer," Howell said.

Howell has put together two straight solid performances for the Pack. The freshman missed the first month of the season with a knee injury but says he has no lingering issues and is just now beginning to acclimate to the speed and intensity of the college game.

"At first I was kind of down on myself – I was getting my minutes but at the same time I wasn't producing the amount that coach wanted me to," Howell said. "But I had to get that out of my head and just go play ball."

For a team that shot just 32 percent from behind the arc coming into Tuesday night, the Pack looked like sharpshooters for the first 10 minutes of the game. Led by Wood, the Pack rained down eight 3-pointers in the half and hit on 57 percent of its shot behind the arc. In the process the home team ballooned its lead up to as high as 23 points before Winthrop's players mounted a comeback.

The comeback came in the form of an unexpected 16-2 run that turned a 23-point blowout into a nine-point game, fueled almost entirely by Eagle's reserve Robbie Dreher. The freshman came off the bench to score 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting with 12 of his points coming during Winthrop's run. The Eagles also got a surprising number of offensive rebounds in the half, pulling down 10 offensive boards on 24 missed shots. The rebounding helped them take a 41-29 deficit into the locker room despite shooting just 33 percent from the floor compared to 50 percent for the Pack.

Winthrop continued to be a thorn in the side of the Pack after halftime, as the home team fell into an offensive slump that allowed the Eagles to hang around for most of the half. Scoring just seven points in the first 10 minutes let the Eagles creep back, cutting the lead to as few as eight points before a 9-0 run essentially ended Winthrop's upset hopes. The Pack shored up the rebounding in the half as well, allowing just four offensive rebounds on 27 misses following the break.

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