RALEIGH — There have been 10 games and six weeks since N.C. State loss to Wake Forest in January.
The Wolfpack did not forget the way it let a 16-point lead slip away or that the Demon Deacons scored 51 points in the second half.
"Any time someone hangs 51 points on you in a half, that's pretty embarrassing," N.C. State senior Scott Wood said.
Junior forward C.J. Leslie and N.C. State's improving defense didn't allow a Wake Forest encore on Wednesday night.
Leslie's 19 points and 10 rebounds helped N.C. State throttle Wake Forest 81-66 for the Pack's sixth win in seven games and third straight at home by double-digits. N.C. State closed out its home schedule with a 16-1 record, including an 8-1 mark in the ACC.
"I think we're playing pretty well right now," N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. "We've done a nice job at home, we've just got to finish strong."
The Wolfpack (22-8, 11-6 ACC) will travel to Florida State on Saturday and then its onto Greensboro before a second straight trip to the NCAA tournament. For Wake Forest (12-17, 5-12) it was another frustrating ACC road loss (0-9) in a season that has featured progress at home.
Wake's 15 turnovers, combined with 16 offensive rebounds and 22 second-chance points for State, was the biggest problem, Wake coach Jeff Bzdelik said.
"Defense, defensive rebounding and turnovers," Bzdelik said. "That is where we lost the game. We can't give up easy baskets and have a chance to win."
No basket came easier than an alley-oop from Leslie to guard Lorenzo Brown (11 points, seven assists) early in the second half, which brought a big smile to Leslie's face and rare, celebratory fist pump.
Howell and Wood were honored on Senior Night, in the final home game together for State's veteran quartet of Leslie, Brown, Howell and Wood and then Leslie proceeded to do the heavy lifting. Leslie shone with 19 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and four assists.
"I thought he was really unselfish," Gottfried said. "He rebounded well, he didn't have a turnover, he blocked four shots. It was nice to see him play well."
Wake beat N.C. State 86-84 on Jan. 22 in Winston-Salem. Freshman forward Devin Thomas put together one of the best all-around game in conference play with 25 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks and four assists.
The State players admitted after that game, they didn't know too much about Thomas but they were ready for him on Wednesday. Thomas didn't score for almost 16 minutes and had only two points at the half. He finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
The Deacs led 14-9 on Wednesday before the Wolfpack awoke from an early "Senior Night" slumber. Gottfried implored his players to "get a stance" and crank up the defense, which is exactly what led to a decisive 19-2 in a 7-minute stretch in the first half.
Leslie scored seven of the final 11 points of the half to give the Pack a 39-24 advantage at the break.
Instead of letting Wake, which played without freshman guard Codi Miller-McIntyre (illness), back into the game, Leslie led a blitz to start the second half. Leslie's dunk, on the Pack's first possession, inspired the first Bzdelik's two timeouts in the first four minutes of the second half.
Leslie's dunk, off a pretty feed from Howell, at 16:30 stretched State's advantage to 47-28. The steal and alley-oop for Brown followed and Wake wouldn't get closer than 16 points until the final minute of the game.
Freshman T.J. Warren (15 points) and Rodney Purvis (14) helped Leslie with the scoring in the second half, while Howell and Wood finished with relatively quiet games. Howell, who was hampered by foul trouble in the first half, had nine points and five rebounds, while Wood finished with eight points.
The modest final stats didn't diminish the seniors value on Wednesday, Gottfried said.
"They epitomize what you want in a basketball player in that they are tremendously unselfish," Gottfried said. "Their motive is to win."