TSX: Pack Hit Shots Down the Stretch

North Carolina State has had problems holding onto second-half leads against ACC opponents, but that wasn't the case against Wake Forest.

North Carolina State has had problems holding onto second-half leads against ACC opponents, but that wasn't the case against Wake Forest.

The Wolfpack went to the locker room up 10 points at the intermission and kept on applying the pressure in running up a 68-54 victory over the Demon Deacons.

"We came out with great energy in the first half and kept it throughout the ballgame," coach Sidney Lowe said after the Wolfpack beat a conference opponent for the first time in a month. "We played excellent defense today."

The 'Pack had lost seven consecutive conference games since beating Duke on Jan. 20, a stretch interrupted only by a win over hapless North Carolina Central.

In four of the last five games of the skid, the 'Pack had let halftime leads evaporate, including a 10-point advantage in a loss to Maryland in the previous game.

This time, it didn't happen.

When Wake crept to within six points with under nine minutes to go, the 'Pack responded with an 8-1 run that made it 54-41 with just over five minutes left. It was double digits the rest of the way.

Despite the win, the 'Pack remained in last place in the conference with a 3-10 ACC mark. Entering the week, North Carolina and Miami were a half-game ahead at 3-9.

N.C. State's next two games are on the road, however, starting with a trip to Miami. The 'Pack then is at Virginia Tech before finishing the regular season with a home game against Boston College.

--Junior G Javier Gonzalez bounced back from a scoreless game in the loss to Maryland to score 11 points against Wake Forest. More important, however, was his defensive effort against Wake's Ish Smith, who had 12 points and five assists but also had five turnovers. "He kept Smith in front of him, which was key for us," coach Sidney Lowe said of Gonzalez.

--The Wolfpack reversed a trend by shooting 52.2 percent in the second half of the win over Wake. In the previous seven games against ACC foes, all losses, the 'Pack shot only 30.7 percent in the second half.

ON THE SPOT: G Javier Gonzalez can be a key for the Wolfpack but is very inconsistent. Over his last seven games, he has scored in double figures three times and had a total of only nine points in the other four.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I am happy for our guys. They've played hard and lost some tough games recently. Today we did a great job. It feels good to get the win." -- Coach Sidney Lowe, after the win over Wake Forest.

The Wolfpack enters this week with only three conference victories, but after beating 23rd-ranked Wake Forest, all three wins came over ranked foes. Florida State and Duke were the other ranked victims. The 'Pack lost its other encounter to a ranked team when it dropped a 73-70 decision to Clemson.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Dennis Horner, F Tracy Smith, G/F Scott Wood, G Farnold Degand, G Javier Gonzalez. Key Subs -- F Josh Davis, F Richard Howell, F C.J. Williams, C Jordan Vandenberg, G Julius Mays.

IN FOCUS: The loser of N.C. State's game against Miami very likely will finish in the ACC cellar. Both teams had only three wins entering the week, but the Hurricanes defeated Virginia Tuesday night.

--Freshman F Richard Howell returned against Wake Forest after sitting out the Maryland game with a thumb injury. He played only eight minutes but had four points and six rebounds.

--G Farnold Degand was back in the starting lineup for the third consecutive game and scored 13 points against Wake. He was 4-of-8 from the field against the Deacons after going just 4-of-12 against Maryland.

--F Tracy Smith was 4-of-8 from the field and scored 14 points against Wake. He is 13-of-26 from the field over his last three games.

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