Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 19, 2012
RALEIGH — Lorenzo Brown gave North Carolina State a needed jolt with his best performance of the season.
The junior scored 18 of his season-high 24 points after halftime, helping the 25th-ranked Wolfpack beat Stanford 88-79 on Tuesday night.
After a quiet first half, Brown went 6-for-9 from the field, made all six of his free throws and sparked the run that finally gave N.C. State (8-2) some cushion.
“I just took it upon myself,” Brown said. “I know our team needed some quick buckets. … So I took it upon myself to make good shots.”
It’s no coincidence that N.C. State’s lead expanded once Brown got rolling. With his team leading by five at half and 50-42 with about 16 minutes left, Brown helped the Wolfpack score on six straight and eight of nine possessions to take a 17-point lead. Brown scored three times and assisted on a fourth during that flurry.
“The difference I think for him tonight as opposed to some early games, when he got in the paint and penetrated, he was on balance, he was under control, he came out of there with good shots,” second-year coach Mark Gottfried said. “I thought early in the year he turned some of those into tough shots, so he certainly is getting better there, too.”
Scott Wood scored 15 of his 17 in the first half for the Wolfpack, who earned a fourth straight win with another high-scoring performance at home. Richard Howell finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds for his fourth straight double-double.
“Our leaders — all our leaders — stepped up and played good today,” said C.J. Leslie, who had 16 points for N.C. State.
It was another strong offensive showing at home for the Wolfpack, who came in averaging almost 86 points at the PNC Arena. N.C. State is in the middle of a six-game homestand that will keep it in Raleigh until opening Atlantic Coast Conference play at Boston College on Jan. 5.
N.C. State, which came in leading the country by shooting nearly 53 percent, finished this one at 56 percent.
The win also allowed N.C. State to avenge a road loss last year in which the Wolfpack blew a 12-point lead in the second half. Among the biggest reasons for the reversal: Stanford went from shooting 34 free throws in last year’s game to going just 4-for-6 on Tuesday night.
N.C. State went 19-for-27 from the foul line for the game, including 15-for-18 after halftime.
Dwight Powell continued his recent strong play for the Cardinal, scoring 23 points.
for his fourth 20-point performance in five games. But Stanford never led and gave up its highest point total of the season.
Brown started the clinching flurry with a score in the lane then added another floater in the paint. Minutes later, he penetrated to find a cutting Howell for a dunk, then scored again in the lane while drawing a foul for a three-point play that pushed N.C. State’s lead to 67-50 with 10:32 left.
“He poses all kinds of problems for you,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “He can post you up because he’s a 6-5 point guard. He can shoot over top of smaller guards. He handles the ball well enough to get to places on the floor that are difficult. … Based on what I’ve seen today, he’s one of the best guards in the country.”
Stanford got as close as seven with about 51/2 minutes left, but Howell answered by muscling his way through the paint for a basket then Leslie followed with a jumper to push the margin back to double figures.
Wood had struggled the past two games, going just 2 for 10 from the field and 1 for 7 from behind the arc. But he broke out of that with five 3-pointers in the first half, including a run of three straight that pushed N.C. State to a 29-20 lead with about 9 minutes left.
This was the Cardinal’s first true road game of the season. Stanford had played six home games, one against San Francisco in its home state and three games in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.
“We’ve got to get tougher,” Powell said. “We’ve got to come ready for a fight from the jump. We’ve got to work on rebounding and getting back on D quicker in transition, just be a tougher team.”