Story from NC State sports information:
This time, NC State grabbed the lead against Clemson late in the game and held on with superior free-throw shooting down the stretch.
The Wolfpack (14-11 overall, 4-7 ACC) scored nine straight points to take control of a close game, beginning at the seven-minute mark, and made 11 of 14 free throws in the final four minutes to seal the 69-61 victory at the RBC Center.
State’s big-man trio of senior Tracy Smith, sophomore Richard Howell and freshman C.J. Leslie scored 41 points and grabbed 28 rebounds against the Tigers to secure their team’s second-consecutive league victory.
“With every team, there’re certain players you count on to be productive every night,” said Wolfpack head coach Sidney Lowe. “We need those three bigs to do that every night for us to be successful. They did it tonight. We have to continue to get that.”
Leslie scored 14 points in the first half alone and finished with a game-high 18 points and 10 rebounds for his first career double-double in ACC play. Smith added 14 points and eight rebounds, while Howell had nine points and 10 rebounds. As good as the interior players were, one of the keys to the Wolfpack victory was the late-game play of senior guard Javier Gonzalez, who came off the bench to score 11 points, including five free throws in the final five minutes of the game.
“Javi didn’t exactly take over the game, but he controlled it,” Lowe said. “He showed his experience tonight and that’s why I put him in there.”
The Tigers (17-9, 6-6) went up by as many as nine points in the first half, but the Wolfpack cut that down to 34-32 at intermission, thanks in great part to Leslie’s first-half scoring and Clemson’s inability to make a shot late in the half.
“I thought they got momentum going into halftime and, for whatever reason, we couldn’t score,” said Tiger coach Brad Brownell. “Our initial defense was good, but we couldn’t get them off the glass.”
The Wolfpack owned a 46-38 rebounding advantage on the boards.
State grabbed a short-lived one-point lead early in the second half, but the Tigers kept the game close until the seven-minute mark.
That’s when junior C.J. Williams scored his first basket of the game with a baseline jumper that began a 9-0 run to give the Wolfpack the lead for good. Harrow grabbed a loose-ball rebound and made a short jumper, his only field goal of the night.
Williams also scored off an offensive rebound, and both Smith and Harrow made free throws that gave the Pack a 61-53 advantage with 4:15 remaining on the clock.
Clemson’s Demontez Stitt finally ended State’s run with a three-point play at the 3:48 mark, but the Wolfpack held on thanks to its free-throw shooting. The Pack did not shoot particularly well from the field, making just 39 percent of its shots, but was 19-for-24 from the foul line (79.2 percent).
The Tigers shot 37.5 percent from the field for the game and made just 10 of 16 free throw attempts and three of 20 3-point attempts.