ACC basketball: N.C. State 65, N.C. Central 60
By Joedy Mccreary
RALEIGH — C.J. Williams wasn’t feeling much like celebrating the highest-scoring game of his career. That’s because his North Carolina State team nearly gave another victory away.
Williams scored a career-high 21 points but the Wolfpack had to hold on to beat North Carolina Central 65-60 on Sunday.
Scott Wood added a season-high 19 points and Richard Howell scored 11 for the Wolfpack (6-3). They never trailed and led by 15, but shot 25.9 percent (7 of 27) in the second half and withstood N.C. Central’s frantic comeback to snap a two-game losing streak.
They held considerable second-half leads in both of those losses, to Indiana and Stanford.
“We’ve gotten a little cautious,” Williams said. “We lost a couple games where we had the lead and kind of started to play not to lose instead of playing to win.”
Ray Willis had 17 points and Dominique Sutton added 15 to lead the Eagles (5-5), who entered with the nation’s No. 2 scoring offense but finished 29 points below their average and dropped their second straight.
“They made a lot of tough shots, and I thought we got cautious,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “I thought we became real tentative late in the game, and I don’t think you can play the game that way. You’ve got to keep attacking and keep doing things kind of in an attack mode. We got away from that.”
Instead, the Eagles kept the Wolfpack within striking distance throughout and then tightened things up one last time.
They used a late 18-6 run to pull within 59-56 on Willis’ driving layup with 1:32 left.
“I told them, ‘Just put the game pressure on them,’” N.C. Central coach LeVelle Moton said. “It’s a little different when you’re up 12, 15 points and you’re shooting 3-pointers, but when it gets to two or four points, let’s see who can make shots. I think we did an excellent job of locating and communicating in the zone (defense), but we just left Wood open for a couple of plays and he did what he did.”
Williams and Wood each hit two free throws in the final minute before Sutton hit a layup that made it 63-60 with 8 seconds left. Wood then sealed it with two more free throws with 5.8 seconds.
N.C. State had to work harder than expected for this victory. The Wolfpack didn’t lead by more than 13 until there were under 13 minutes left, when Williams’ three-point play made it 50-36. Wood added a 3-pointer a minute later to give N.C. State its largest lead, 53-38.
“Just being able to finish, even though it was ugly, just gives you a little bit of that confidence,” Wood said.
The Wolfpack improved to 12-0 at Reynolds Coliseum since they moved the majority of their home games to the RBC Center in 1999. N.C. State is 2-0 at Reynolds this season with one more game scheduled there, Dec. 29 against Campbell.
Leading scorer C.J. Leslie, hamstrung by foul trouble, finished with three points and was held to single-figure scoring for the first time this season. The Wolfpack’s other C.J. — Williams — was there to pick up the scoring slack, surpassing his previous high of 18 midway through the second half.
Nick Chasten and Ebuka Anyaorah each scored 13 points for the Eagles. They dropped to 0-5 on the road this season and fell to 0-13 against Atlantic Coast Conference schools.
“They’re not your average MEAC team,” Williams said. “They’ve got big-time players.”
Maybe, but things couldn’t have started much worse for N.C. Central, which entered averaging nearly 89 points. The Eagles missed their first eight shots and were down 9-0 by the time Willis hit a jumper for their first field goal after 6:18 had elapsed.
The Wolfpack opened the game with a 15-4 run that was capped by DeShawn Painter’s three-point play with 12:23 left before the break. Wood’s 3-pointer at the 9:13 mark made it a 13-point game at 21-8 —N.C. State’s largest lead until the final 13 minutes.
“I went in at halftime and I told everybody, ‘Raise your hand if you missed a layup,’ and a couple of guys raised their hand,” Moton said. “Once we tallied it up, it was 14 points worth of layups. … My point was, it was pretty much having self-inflicted wounds as opposed to them really actually, physically beating us. So if we could stop and eliminate the self-inflicted wounds, I thought we’d be in the game.”
The Associated Press