Free of fouls, N.C. State's Howell displays shooting touch

jgiglio@newsobserver.comMarch 20, 2012 

— N.C. State guard Scott Wood compared his teammate Richard Howell to Carmelo Anthony. Wolfpack point guard Lorenzo Brown compared Howell to a bully.

N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried is OK with any comparison for the junior power forward, just as long Howell can stay in the game and off the bench with foul trouble.

Facing a Kansas frontline featuring All-American forward Thomas Robinson and 7-footer Jeff Withey, the Wolfpack is going to need another strong outing from Howell Friday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals in St. Louis.

“If he can stay out of foul trouble, that certainly helps us,” Gottfried said Tuesday after the team’s practice in Raleigh.

Howell exploded for 22 points in the Pack’s second-round win over a smaller San Diego State lineup. He made 10 of his 12 shots, mostly a variety of 15-foot jumpers, prompting Wood to compare Howell to Anthony, the quintessential scoring small forward and New York Knicks star.

Howell filled his usual blue-collar role in Sunday’s third-round win over Georgetown with a game-best nine rebounds and nine points.

With soft hands, a wide body and high basketball IQ, Howell finds his way to loose rebounds. In ACC play, he was third in the league with 8.7 rebounds per game, despite being his listed height, 6-8, only on a “good day,” according to his coach.

“He has learned how to use his body and how to get great position,” Gottfried said. “And he has great hands.”

The biggest issue for Howell this season has not been his size, or his ability to show off his mid-range game. It has been staying out of foul trouble.

He fouled out of five ACC games, including three straight starting with the Pack’s win at Miami on Jan. 22. He also fouled out in back-to-back games with Duke and Florida State, and the Wolfpack is 1-4 when Howell fouls out.

“Frustrated” doesn’t begin to describe Howell’s assessment of the second half of the ACC season.

“My whole junior year, I’ve been in foul trouble,” Howell said.

That’s why Howell said he felt “free” against San Diego State. He made it through the first half without a foul, which helped him pop in 15 points.

Howell ended up with four fouls against San Diego State and racked up another four against Georgetown, but fewer of those calls have been on reach-in fouls or obvious fouls. He was plagued during ACC play with fouls committed 20-to-30 feet from the basket on either reach-ins or body contact while defending screens.

“I’m definitely learning,” Howell said. “I can kind of tell how the refs are going to call the game.”

And Gottfried has noticed. He defended Howell, who has committed a team-high 122 fouls – 36 more than anyone else on the team.

“Sometimes, when I watch the tape, there are times when he has made errors, there’s no question,” Gottfried said. “There other times when I watch and go ‘Boy, I don’t know if that was really a foul.’ He’s just kind of had the unlucky whistle sometimes, too.”

Howell’s ability to adjust to the calls, and stay on the floor, has been a key to the Pack’s postseason success. Adjustments are old hat for Howell, though.

Coming out of high school in Marietta, Ga., Howell wanted to be scoring forward like Anthony, his favorite player.

“I got here and turned into Dennis Rodman,” Howell said. “It’s all cool.”

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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