ACC Basketball: N.C. State 88, Towson 68
RALEIGH ó Tracy Smith entered the game looking to give his team a spark.
He ended up providing so much more.
Smith scored a career-high 31 points in 23 minutes off the bench to help North Carolina State defeat Towson 88-68 on Wednesday.
Smith made 10 of 15 shots from the field and all 11 of his free throws for the Wolfpack (9-2), who rallied from an 11-point deficit early in the first half.
“I was just very energized coming into the game,” said Smith, whose previous career high was 14 points. “We started out slow, and I wanted to bring in positive energy. That’s what I did.”
Brandon Costner added 15 points and 10 assists for the Wolfpack, who led 46-41 at halftime after closing the first half on an 8-0 run. Courtney Fells scored 11 points for N.C. State, and Ben McCauley and Dennis Horner added 10 points apiece.
Josh Thornton led the Tigers (5-8), who suffered their fifth loss in six games, with 22 points. He made four 3-pointers in a span of 3:22 early in the first half, giving Towson its biggest lead at 18-7 with 14:30 remaining in the period.
That’s when Smith went to work. The 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward, who entered the game averaging 8.2 points per contest, scored 11 consecutive points to help N.C. State climb back into the game.
Junior Hairston, Towson’s leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker, played just six minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. With Hairston on the bench, the Tigers couldn’t stop Smith from finding holes in their 1-3-1 and 2-3 zones.
“We’ve played Villanova, Penn State and Saint Joseph’s, so we know we’re vulnerable to big, wide-bodied guys,” Towson coach Pat Kennedy said. “I thought (Smith) was very good at creating space for himself around the basket.”
The Tigers survived Smith’s initial barrage, but they relinquished the lead when he sparked another surge late in the first half. Costner converted a three-point play to tie the score at 41 with 2:22 remaining, and Smith put the Wolfpack ahead for good with a layup and a tap-in of a missed free throw.
N.C. State carried the momentum into the second half, when it shot 60 percent from the floor (15 of 25). Smith made his first five shots of the half, with his first three buckets coming on passes from Costner.
“We moved the ball well,” said N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe, whose team shot at least 50 percent from the field for the fifth time in the last six games. “We were prepared for both of their zones. The only thing that we needed to do was stay patient, and we did that.”
The Tigers, who made 6 of 13 3-point attempts in the first half, couldn’t keep pace. Towson connected on just 3 of 11 3-point attempts in the second half, shooting 37.7 percent from the field for the game (23 of 61).
Thornton made back-to-back 3-pointers to help Towson cut N.C. State’s lead to 58-54 with 13:55 to play, but Smith made sure the Tigers got no closer.
Smith scored on a dunk and a layup to extend N.C. State’s lead to 62-54, and Costner and Fells added 3-pointers as part of a 12-2 run that put the Wolfpack ahead 70-56 with 11 minutes remaining.
“We extended our defense, and I think that really started it for us,” Lowe said.
Jarrel Smith added 20 points and 11 rebounds for Towson, which dropped to 0-28 all time against Atlantic Coast Conference competition.
Tracy Smith made a pair of free throws with 6:16 remaining to cap his scoring total, drawing an ovation from the half-empty arena when he reached 30 points. He entered play having made just 16 of 30 free throws this season.
“I’m excited,” Smith said. “I had been waiting for this day to come, and it finally came. We got the win, so I’m very happy right now.”
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