Its all falling into place now for N.C. State. C.J. Leslie is replicating his postseason form of a year ago. Lorenzo Brown is rounding into health. Scott Wood is making shots. Richard Howell is Richard Howell.
Virginia posed little opposition Friday N.C. State took control early as Leslie scored eight of N.C. States first 17 points, then pulled away when Wood hit 3-pointers on back-to-back-to-back possessions early in the second half for a 75-56 win.
Just as he was in Atlanta last year, Leslie was dominant. He took the ball to the rim. He made (most of) his free throws. He rebounded. He blocked shots. He even hit a few jump shots. He displayed the full array of his game, as he has at times this season, but without consistency.
After scoring 15 points and pulling down seven rebounds in Thursdays win over Virginia Tech and 17 points with 11 rebounds on Friday, Leslie has 84 points in his past five ACC tournament games, going back to last season.
Wood, meanwhile, went 7-for-12 from 3-point range -- his most 3-pointers since the Florida State game his freshman year, when he went 7-for-11 -- and finished with 23 points.
Not that there werent some of the same warning signs for State -- Howell left the game for a little while with a thigh injury and T.J. Warren picked up a second-half technical foul that gave Virginia some life at a time when the Cavaliers were otherwise finished.
The injury didnt seem to slow Howell, even if he was grabbing at his right leg while trotting down the court, but itll be interesting to see how it responds overnight before facing Miami on Saturday.
With the surging Wolfpack facing the top-seeded Hurricanes in the first semifinal and the potential for a third Duke-Carolina meeting, Saturday is shaping up awfully well. So, at the moment, is the Wolfpack.
-- Luke DeCock
N.C. State players wore red long-sleeved T-shirts inscribed with white letters: Rise to the occasion.
The Wolfpack rose. They allowed Virginia to linger in the first half at Greensboro Coliseum Friday. The Cavaliers could have competed if they had hit some easy and open shots. But they didnt. The longer the game wore on, the more difficult Virginias shots became.
N.C. State looked like the team many of us anticipated before the season began. The Wolfpack imposed their talent on a lesser Virginia team. The Cavaliers had nobody who could match up with C.J. Leslie, and Leslie knew it.
When Virginia adjusted inside, Scott Wood hammered the Cavaliers outside.
Wood took 12 shots from the field, all 3-pointers, and hit seven for a game-high 23 points. Leslie added 17 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
N.C. State won easily, beating the Cavaliers 75-56.
The Wolfpack was unselfish and entertaining and really good.
If they can sustain it theres nobody in the conference, or in the country, with which they cant compete.
-- Tom Sorensen