RALEIGH — Lorenzo Browns mood matched his black jersey on Sunday.
Yes, N.C. State did end up beating Clemson 66-62 with a late surge from senior Richard Howell and free throws by senior Scott Wood.
Still, Brown said, there was something amiss even in victory.
We didnt play our best, Im not very excited about that, Brown said. I mean, who would (be)?
Clemson (10-7, 2-3 ACC) almost was. Forward Devin Booker, a senior, poured in a career-best 27 points, and guard Rod Hall had 16 points, including five straight to even the game at 54 with 3:37 to play.
But Howell scored N.C. States next six points of the game, including a three-point play with 1:56 to put N.C. State up for good, 60-57.
Wood made five of six free throws in the final 27.9 seconds to provide the winning margin for the Wolfpack (15-3), which improved to 4-1 in the ACC.
Still, there was an air of dissatisfaction after the game. Brown said he was upset. Howell, who was guarding Booker most of the game, was surprised at just how big of a game Booker had.
Man, I didnt know he had 27, geez, said Howell, who finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds of his own. Thats a good game by him, but we definitely need to pick it up on the defensive end.
It was Brown who stole the ball from Hall on an inbounds pass with 5.5 seconds left to prevent any last-second theatrics from the Tigers.
Brown finished with a respectable final line six points, seven rebounds and five assists but it wasnt enough.
Its always about a win, but at the same time, we can do better than that, Brown said.
N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried, who turned 49 on Sunday, bottom-lined the win.
Part of being in a league like this, you have to grind some out, Gottfried said. Its not always going to be glamorous, you just got to find a way to keep winning.
N.C. State had led by nine early in the second half, with freshman forward T.J. Warren (21 points) as its main source of offense.
But Brown, forward C.J. Leslie (six points) and Wood (11) couldnt quite find a rhythm against Clemsons defense. The Pack scored a season-low 50 points in Wednesdays loss at Maryland.
Brown called it a slump, but Gottfried was more philosophical.
Its hard to stay at a high, high level offensively all the time, every night, Gottfried said. On those nights, youve got to find a way to win.
Decked out in black jerseys for just the third time in school history, N.C. State started quickly, scoring the first 10 points of the game. With three 3-pointers from freshman guard Rodney Purvis, State led by as many as 11 in the first half and was up by 10, 28-18 with 4 minutes left in the first half.
Thats when Booker took over for Clemson. He had 18 points in the first half and was practically all of Clemsons offense. Booker shot 9 of 12 in the first half and the rest of Clemsons lineup was 3 of 24.
Hall and Milton Jennings (nine points, eight rebounds, four assists) picked up their production in the second half, but not enough to offset Howells clutch points.
Howell wasnt as down about the win as Brown, but he said theres room for improvement.
We definitely did some good things to win the ballgame, but also we did some bad things to keep them in the ballgame, Howell said. I feel like thats what we need to focus on and get it right the next game.