Playing its third road game in its last four contents, the Wolfpack pulled away from UNC Greensboro with a 57-point second half to win its second straight game, 89-67 on Thursday night at the Greensboro Coliseum. The Pack forced a season-high 21 turnovers, leading to a quicker pace and more chances for the offense.
"That's what we've been trying to do," Lowe said. "It's not quite the Denver Nuggets when they used to run but we are trying to get more pace to the ballgame. It gives us more opportunities."
The Pack shot 68 percent in the second half, hit 75 percent of its 3-pointers and blew away the Spartans despite giving up 21 second-chance points. But Lowe stressed the defensive effort to his players both at the half and after the game.
"The main thing that started that was our defensive stops," Scott Wood said. "I think we kind of sucked the energy out of them when we started getting stops and got some good looks."
Tracy Smith led all scorers with 21 points and eight rebounds. Dennis Horner scored just two points in the first half but turned it on in the second, finishing with 17 points. Wood continued his hot-shooting ways, scoring 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from behind the arc while Javi Gonzalez was the fourth Wolfpack player in double figures, finishing with 15 points and five assists.
The Pack played without freshman center Jordan Vandenberg, who twisted his ankle during practice and was unable to go on Thursday night. Lowe was hopeful that Vandenberg would be able to suit up for Florida on Sunday.
"He was walking without the crutches, that was a good sign," Lowe said. "We'll have to see. I told him I expect him back in about another day or two."
For the second straight contest the Pack jumped out to a big lead quickly, using a 10-0 run to go up by as many as 15 points on the Spartans. But Greensboro made its comeback as the Pack offense struggled to find answers against the Spartan's zone defense. Smith led the first-half scoring with 14 points but was kept relatively quiet later in the half as Greensboro cut the lead to as little as three points.
The two teams shot an identical 43 percent in the half, going 12-for-28 from the floor. The Pack took 10 3-pointers, hitting four, while the Spartans didn't make a 3 on four attempts. Both teams were sloppy taking care of the ball, with the Pack turning it over eight times while UNCG coughed it up nine times. Despite the poor play in the latter part of the half, the Pack took a 32-28 lead into the locker room.
"We knew they were gonna come out and run some zone, run some scrappy defenses," Horner said. "That first half our offensive execution was a little sloppy except for Tracy, he was holding it down. The second half we came and out and just played basketball."
Horner helped the Pack push the margin back out into double digits, rebounding from a quiet first-half offensively to score eight points in the first eight minutes of the second half. The only thing keeping UNCG in the game was the Pack's defensive rebound, as the Spartans repeatedly scored on second-chance opportunities. But the visitors blew the game open when Lowe went to a full-court press, forcing a string of Spartan turnovers that pushed the lead beyond 20 points.
Now the Pack has just two days to prepare for Florida, who travels to Raleigh on Sunday and will be the third game for the Pack in the last six days.