Leslie leads Pack past Miami with 21 points, 11 rebounds

Leslie has 21 points, 11 rebounds

jgiglio@newsobserver.comMarch 1, 2012 

— Nobody has ever wanted to go to Dayton, Ohio, this badly.

When a trip in Starkville, Miss., or Fort Collins, Colo., for the NIT is a possible alternative, Dayton - the home of the "First Four" of the NCAA tournament - is Shangri-La.

C.J. Leslie and Scott Wood carried a desperate Wolfpack team to a much-needed 77-73 win over an equally needy Miami team on Wednesday night at the RBC Center.

"We're not dead yet," Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said, in reference to his team's NCAA tournament hopes. "We still have a pulse."

By no means does the win put the Wolfpack (19-11, 8-7 ACC) in Dayton, or anywhere but back the outer reaches of the bubble, but a loss on Wednesday would have eliminated any legitimate hope for an at-large bid for the Wolfpack, which ended a four-game losing streak.

Wood's 3-pointer from the right elbow, with 67 seconds left in the game, gave the Wolfpack a 72-69 lead which guard Lorenzo Brown held up with a pair of free throws with 12.6 seconds left.

Fittingly, Leslie, who scored 21 points, grabbed Malcolm Grant's missed 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left to close out the game.

"Coach said it's time for me to be a leader," Leslie said.

Leslie has been just that, with an average of 19 points in the past five games, and he has either matched or surpassed his career high in three of the past four contests.

Leslie was the best player in the game, with 11 rebounds to go with three blocks, and he made the most important play of the game - a rebound of Richard Howell's second missed free throw with 16.4 seconds left to put Brown on the foul line for the insurance points.

Leslie also made the most athletic play of the game, flushing a half-court alley-oop from Brown at 15:58 in the second half.

Leslie's electrifying dunk gave the Wolfpack a 43-42 lead at 15:58, which it protected for its postseason life until Grant tied the game at 69-69 with a 3-pointer with 1:33 left.

Leslie grabbed the two biggest rebounds in the final 17 seconds - off of Grant's miss and Howell's missed free throw.

"He was great," said Brown, who finished with 16 points and five assists.

There were a lot of shining moments for the Wolfpack, who had stumbled through February with three wins in the previous seven games.

Wood broke out of his shooting slump, which coincided with N.C. State's losing streak, with 15 points and four 3-pointers. Wood had been a combined 4 of 20 from 3-point range in the previous four games.

Howell, who has been plagued by foul trouble for the majority of the ACC season, added 14 points with nine rebounds with only three fouls.

Senior guard Alex Johnson finished with eight assists and five points - including two key free throws with 29.7 seconds left.

Miami (17-11, 8-7), which has what N.C. State lacks - signature wins over Duke and Florida State - did not go away without a fight. Reserve guard Rion Brown buried three 3-pointers and led the Hurricanes with 15 points.

The Canes finished the game just 8 of 29 from beyond the arc, though, when Grant's late miss would have tied the game and likely forced overtime which was the last thing State wanted after losing at Clemson four days ago in overtime.

A staggering 22 offensive rebounds kept the Canes in the game, but the Wolfpack pieced together its first win in 20 days and its most important one of the season.

"We needed this one," Leslie said. "It was big for us."

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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