After finding multiple ways to lose leads and playing inconsistent basketball for much of the last month, NC State finally finished a game against Wake Forest Saturday, picking up a 14-point victory after dropping seven straight conference games.
NC State forced 23 Wake Forest turnovers (15 in the first half) and held down Ish Smith, forcing the senior guard to commit five turnovers and holding him to 12 points. Al-Farouq Aminu and Chas McFarland committed six turnovers each. The Wolfpack was able to score 18 points off those 23 turnovers.
“I congratulate NC State,” Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio said. “I thought they played very well. They came out and set a certain tone and we didn’t adjust. Our offense put way too much pressure on our defense today. We held them to 40% but we had 15 turnovers in one half.”
Sidney Lowe said NC State’s transition defense, which only allowed eight fast break points, was key to shutting down the Wake Forest offense.
“If you allow them to run on you, they’re going to beat you. Their bigs run the floor very well. You have to stop the transition offense and we did a good job of that. We had deflections and were diving for the ball. As far as that aspect it’s probably the best defensive game we’ve played. Our kids were committed and it showed.”
Five players scored in double figures and the Wolfpack went 6 of 12 from behind the arc after struggling to make shots during the last seven games. CJ Williams came off the bench and poured in 12 points, hitting two three-pointers in a tw0-minute stretch to keep NC State’s lead above 10 points.
Williams, who has struggled throughout the year, said he’s continued to work hard.
“All week in practice I’ve been working on my shot and working on getting my confidence back and I was able to continue to shoot the ball,” Williams said. “Coach had confidence in me and I know if he has confidence in me I have to have confidence in myself.”
Lowe also credited Williams, among others, for being more verbal on the court and in the locker room, something he said helped NC State to reverting to the bad habits its developed during its losing streak.
“We were more energetic coming out,” Williams said. “Sometimes we were a little dead coming out of halftime. Guys were talking in the locker room and it kept us all focused on what we wanted to do. We all just stayed positive.”
Wake Forest shot 0 for 12 from behind the arc, something that hadn’t happened for the Deacons in 575 games. The last time an NC State opponent didn’t make a three-pointer was in 1990, when Maryland failed to do so.
Dennis Horner picked up his third double-double in the last four ball games, scoring 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Horner, who had never recorded a double-double before the Virginia Tech game Feb. 10.
Despite Horner’s performance on the glass, Wake Forest out-rebounded NC State 50-31 and pulled down 27 offensive boards (8 by Aminu). However, the Deacons could only manage 19 second chance points on those opportunities.
“They got on me about rebounding, because I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t rebounding,” Horner said. “They sat me down and talked to me about it, I took it to heart and I wasn’t going to let that stop me from playing so I’m coming out here tonight and trying to get as many rebounds as I can. ”
Tracy Smith led NC State with 14 points. Javi Gonzalez scored 11 points and dished out six assists while only turning the ball over twice. The Wolfpack had 15 turnovers but Wake Forest was only able to manage seven points off those miscues.
Senior guard Farnold Degand (13 points) said the win couldn’t have come at a better time for a team which had found so many ways to lose games during the last month.
“We’re more relieved than anything,” he said. “The last couple weeks we’ve been fighting and come out short on a few games. To pull it out today felt great.”