Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 3, 2013
RALEIGH — Tyler Lewis had looked out of synch and even out of confidence at times at North Carolina State. On Saturday, the freshman came through with a big performance his team desperately needed.
Lewis scored a season-high 16 points to go with five assists in place of injured point guard Lorenzo Brown, an encouraging sign for the No. 19 Wolfpack in a 79-78 loss to No. 14 Miami on Saturday.
“I knew what I had to do out there and what my game involved,” Lewis said. “I wasn’t too surprised, but I know a lot of fans will be surprised.”
The 5-foot-11 guard played 36 minutes while sharing point guard duties with fellow freshman Rodney Purvis while Brown watched from the bench. The junior had rolled his left ankle when he stepped on a defender’s foot in Tuesday’s loss at Virginia and coach Mark Gottfried said his team prepared ever since as though Brown wouldn’t be able to go against the Hurricanes.
Brown, who had started 59 straight games, tried to test his ankle during pregame warm-ups. Lewis hadn’t scored more than six points all year and had played only sparingly until Brown’s injury.
“He created shots for others, he got us into our offense and he did a lot of good things for our team,” Gottfried said. “I’m proud of the guy, he was good. It’s not easy to sit over there (on the bench) like he did. I get it. I’ve told him that many times. It’s not the easiest thing to do.”
For Miami, Reggie Johnson tipped in a missed shot with 0.8 seconds left to keep the Hurricanes unbeaten in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Johnson’s left-handed tip in traffic off a miss by Shane Larkin capped a back-and-forth second half for the Hurricanes (17-3, 8-0 ACC). Johnson finished with 15 points in his best performance since returning from a broken left thumb four games ago.
Durand Scott led Miami with 18 points and Julian Gamble added 16 to help the Hurricanes win their ninth straight game, a run that included a blowout of then-No. 1 Duke last week.
C.J. Leslie had 18 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Wolfpack (16-6, 5-4), who nearly topped Johnson’s tip when Purvis launched a heave from beyond halfcourt that hit the rim and rattled out to end it.
The Hurricanes were only the ninth team to start 7-0 in ACC play since the 1996-97 season and first since Duke started 10-0 five years ago, according to STATS LLC.
Lewis missed a contested jumper with about 15 seconds left, and Miami grabbed the rebound and called timeout with 10.9 seconds remaining to set up the final play.
Larkin’s shot on the right side bounced off the rim, but Johnson tipped the ball up and in over Richard Howell to stun the home crowd that had been as loud as it was for rivalry wins against Duke and North Carolina this month.
It was the first home loss in 13 games for the Wolfpack, the preseason ACC favorite. N.C. State’s four league losses have come by a combined seven points, including a 51-50 defeat at Maryland in which the Wolfpack lost on a last-second putback on Jan. 16.
Miami led by nine in the first half and N.C. State led by 10 midway through the second half, while the Wolfpack shot 54 percent for the game. Miami shot 49 percent but went just 3 for 21 from 3-point range, though the Hurricanes helped themselves by scoring 28 points in the paint after halftime and 50 for the game. Miami also scored 10 second-chance points in the second half, the last on Johnson’s winning tip.