RALEIGH — Before a week-long break from basketball games for final exams, Richard Howell had found his rhythm, notching double-doubles in three of the Wolfpacks past four games. In No. 25 N.C. States 84-62 win over Norfolk State Saturday, he took that effectiveness to another level.
Howell pulled down a career-high 19 rebounds and five blocks, and he also scored 12 points to extend his double-double streak to three games in a row and four of the last five. At this point, his teammates expect that level of production.
Thats what he does, point guard Lorenzo Brown said. Im not surprised. He always does that.
Frequently, Howells defensive boards sparked the transition offensive for the Wolfpack (7-2), which won its third game in a row. N.C. State scored 30 points off the fast break, which they ran often against the inferior Spartans (6-7).
Our defense generated some offense, head coach Mark Gottfried said. We deflected some passes, we got our hands on loose balls and turned those into fast breaks. Defensively, we are getting a lot better.
In addition to the 30 fast-break points, the Wolfpack generated 21 more points off of turnovers. While Norfolk State was forced into 16 giveaways, the Wolfpack recorded 17 of their own. Four of them came during a first-half stretch that allowed the Spartans to pull within one at 23-22 with 7:00 remaining on the clock. The Wolfpack, though, put together a 17-3 run from that point until the end of the half. The Spartans never closed the gap to single digits.
The Wolfpack started well, opening the game with a 14-4 lead as Norfolk State shot 18.2 percent (2-for-11) from the floor. The Spartans would improve that number to 32.8 percent for the game.
N.C. State had entered the contest with the nations second-highest shooting percentage at 52.1 percent. Against Norfolk State, the Wolfpack shot 57.4 percent, but, despite that high number, Gottfried said there is room for improvement.
We can run our offense better and read our offense better, he said. Weve got a long ways to do there.
Offensively, Howell and freshmen T.J. Warren have been the most efficient scorers, and Warren added a 9-for-11 performance for a team-high 21 points in his 28 minutes off the bench Saturday. Lorenzo Brown was 7-of-8 (his only miss came on his final lay-up attempt, which was blocked) for 16 points as well.
A few players did struggle for consistency. Scott Wood picked up two first-half fouls and went 2-for-5 from the field, and 1-for-4 from 3-point range, for six points. C.J. Leslie started 1-of-6 from the free throw line before making his last two (drawing a Bronx cheer from the crowd) to finish 3-for-8. Leslie finished 4-of-6 from the field for 11 points, but he also recorded six turnovers and just three rebounds.
With Howells emergence as a rebounding machine, though, the Wolfpack have started to just assume he will be there to clean up the glass.
Because he is such a good rebounder, weve got other guys leaking out every now and then because they feel like he is going to get it, Gottfried said. Theres so much confidence that Richard is going to get it.
He just goes and gets it. His hands are so good. When he gets his hands on it, hes got it.
Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley