N.C. State tops Western Michigan 84-68 with strong 2nd half

jgiglio@newsobserver.comDecember 29, 2012 

— Just like the previous game against St. Bonaventure, Richard Howell fouled out Saturday against Western Michigan.

And just like against St. Bonaventure, N.C. State won going away, 84-68, but Howell atoned for a scoreless effort against the Bonnies with 18 points and nine rebounds.

The senior forward added three assists and two blocks and overcame a minor ankle sprain in the second half.

“Richard’s a great player and great player’s bounce back,” forward C.J. Leslie said. “I knew he would come out strong.”

Howell made all eight of his field-goal attempts and rebounded from an off game, and Leslie rebounded from a slow start to give the 23rd-ranked Wolfpack (10-2) its six straight win.

Leslie scored 14 of his game-high 19 points during the second half to counter the 14 Howell scored during the first half.

Leslie, coming off of a career-best 33 points against the Bonnies, made only one field goal during the first half Saturday, and he got into a brief disagreement with coach Mark Gottfried before turning his game around.

“That’s part of the game,” Leslie said of the interaction with an agitated Gottfried, who was imploring his star forward for more several times during the first half.

Leslie delivered after halftime, especially after Howell tweaked his left ankle, with a strong performance from the free-throw line. Leslie made nine of his 11 free throws and finished with three steals and seven rebounds.

“He was a lot more active as the game wore on,” Gottfried said. “He was blocking shots, getting rebounds and running the floor. He was a different player. He’s got to play like that all the time.”

Western Michigan (8-5) finished with 22 offensive rebounds, which irked Gottfried, particularly during the first half when it was a tight game.

The Broncos took a 24-21 lead on a putback basket by guard Connar Tava at the 9 minutes, 33 seconds, which prompted Gottfried to sub for Leslie and the two exchanged words.

The score was 32-32 with three minutes left in the half when an offensive rebound by Western Michigan’s Shayne Whittington prompted a stomp and yell from Gottfried: “Get a rebound!”

“We gave up too many offensive rebounds, way too many of them,” Gottfried said. “And they turned a lot of them in the first half into baskets.”

Sixteen of the Broncos’ 26 second-chance points came during the first half. Even with Howell’s first-half effort, N.C. State’s lead was only 43-36.

With Leslie in high gear, and freshman reserve forward T.J. Warren adding 15 total points, the Pack led by as many as 21 during the second half.

Leslie’s assist to Warren at 12:05 in the second half stretched the Pack’s lead to 59-45. A technical foul on Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins on the next possession opened the floodgates.

The defensive effort during the second half, led by three steals from guard Lorenzo Brown, pleased Gottfried. As did the team’s 17 total assists, on 30 field goals, and 54.5 percent shooting – the Wolfpack’s 10th time this season better than 50 percent.

It all added up to N.C. State’s sixth straight win since a 79-72 road loss Nov. 27 to then-No. 3 Michigan. The Pack will face UNC Greensboro on Monday before ACC play begins.

“We’re doing a lot of things well right now, but I still think we can get a lot better,” Gottfried said.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service