GREENSBORO — N.C. State and UNC Greensboro exchanged a few choice words in the postgame handshake line. The two sides had to be separated before it escalated into something more than posturing.
People just wanted to talk and act like they go hard, N.C. State freshman guard Cat Barber said.
The Wolfpack didnt get a fight Monday, but they got a challenge from the Spartans. N.C. State built a 17-point lead during the second half and then held on for a 68-64 win at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Sophomore forward T.J. Warren led the Wolfpack (10-3) with a game-high 24 points, and Barber added 17 and six assists for the teams second road win of the season to close out the nonconference schedule. N.C. State will open ACC play Saturday in Raleigh against conference newcomer Pittsburgh.
Its the start of a new season, junior guard Desmond Lee said.
The Wolfpack is hoping to build on the lessons learned outside of the league, particularly during the past two games. Two days earlier against No. 25 Missouri, N.C. State squandered a 10-point second-half lead and lost 68-64 after leading the first 36 minutes.
N.C. State came out sluggish Monday, perhaps stuck in a Mizzou fog and definitely caught in a UNC Greensboro whirlwind. Hard-charging big men Kayel Locke (19 points) and Kyle Cain (11) helped the Spartans to a 28-21 lead in the first 11 minutes.
The Wolfpack didnt pressure on defense and it didnt take the ball to the basket against a smaller opponent.
The first 15 minutes of the game, the blunt truth of the matter is their post players just kicked our butts, N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. They did anything they wanted to do.
The Wolfpack turned up the defensive intensity at the end of the first half and took a 38-35 lead at the break, and then it opened the second half with a 16-2 run. Aggressive play by Barber and Lee (15 points) sparked the run and N.C. State scored on its first seven possessions of the second half.
N.C. States advantage ballooned to 54-37 after a free throw by Barber at the 16-minute, 3-second mark. The Wolfpack led 60-48 after a steal and dunk by Warren at 10:43 but then went 7:08 without a field goal.
Lees dunk at 3:35, which gave the Wolfpack a 65-61 lead, was N.C. States only field goal during the final 10 minutes. Freshman guard Tevon Saddler (18 points) led the Spartans comeback during N.C. States drought.
The Wolfpack faced a similar dry spell Saturday against Missouri and couldnt close out the victory. Lee said N.C. State needs to learn how to play with a lead.
We get complacent and start playing not to lose the game, he said.
Gottfried said his team got good shots, they just couldnt knock them down during the final minutes. The Wolfpack was just 10 of 27 from the floor in the second half.
When you stop scoring the ball, it puts a lot of pressure on your defense every single trip, Gottfried said.
Warren and Barber each made one free throw in the final 23.4 seconds to put the game away. The Spartans had a chance, down 67-64 with the ball, but Cain and Locked both missed two-point attempts on their final possession.
Then the postgame turned into a scrum before cooler heads prevailed and N.C. State went home with a win.