Maverick Rowan’s confidence got him to N.C. State. His 3-point shooting got the Wolfpack an ACC tournament win on Tuesday.
Rowan made six 3-pointers and scored 24 points to push the 12th-seeded Wolfpack to a 75-72 win over No. 13 Wake Forest in the first round of the ACC tournament.
N.C. State (16-16) will face No. 5 seed Duke (22-9) in the second round on Wednesday (2:30 p.m.) in Washington.
Wake Forest’s season, which started with a flourish outside the league, ends at 11-20. The Demon Deacons beat Big Ten winner Indiana back in November but won only two of 19 ACC games.
Rowan was the main reason the Wolfpack won its first game in the ACC for the fifth straight year under coach Mark Gottfried.
Gottfried likes to tell the story about how Rowan impressed him during the recruiting process. Rowan had helped his former high school in Midland, Pa. win a state title before finishing his prep career in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he also led his team to a state title.
Gottfried asked the 6-7 shooting guard who would win between his Pennsylvania and Florida teams.
“He looked right at me and said, ‘Depends on which team I’m on,’ ” Gottfried said. “I knew right then, I like this guy.”
Gottfried said he likes Rowan’s swagger and that he’s not afraid of the big moments. That unwavering confidence, even when shots aren’t falling, served Rowan and the Wolfpack well on Tuesday.
With N.C. State down 59-57 after a sloppy, back-and-forth game reached the 5:12 mark, Rowan hit the first of three consecutive 3-pointers.
Rowan, who has been playing with sore left foot and limited in practice, buried his next two shots from the wing. By the time forward BeeJay Anya flushed home a missed layup by Cat Barber, N.C. State had a 68-63 lead.
On the next Wake possession, Anya — playing with four fouls — stripped Devin Thomas (12 points, 13 rebounds) of the ball and N.C. State went back to Rowan. Bryant Crawford, who led the Demon Deacons with 19 points, hammered Rowan on a 3-point attempt. The Wolfpack freshman stepped to the line and made two of free throws to push the lead to 70-63 with 2:11 left.
Wake had three chances in the final 15 seconds to send the game to overtime but Crawford and Codi Miller-McIntyre couldn't convert from 3.
Rowan didn’t offer much insight in the post-game press conference. That’s not exactly his style.
“Cat did a great job of finding me off the screens,” Rowan said.
More game, less talk is what Rowan's teammates expect from him.
“He’s not a big talker but he gets the job done,” sophomore forward Abdul-Malik Abu said.
Rowan has been particularly good this season in the final 5 minutes of each game. He had a the game-winning layup against Boston College last Wednesday in Raleigh.
But Rowan’s 3-point stroke, in particular, heats up in the final 5 minutes. In 19 ACC games, Rowan has made 16 of 31 3-point shots, or 51.6 percent in the final 5 minutes of the game.
“Once he gets going, he’s hard to stop,” sophomore guard Cody Martin said.
It’s the “getting going” part that has been more difficult for the freshman. In the first 35 minutes of the game, Rowan is just 33 of 114 from the 3-point line or 28.9 percent.
“I think he’s had a really good freshman year and we forget sometimes he is a freshman,” Gottfried said.
Rowan’s freshman season totals from 3, 78 of 232 (33.6 percent), compare favorably with the first year for N.C. State’s last two 3-point specialists. Ralston Turner made 48 of 149 (32.2 percent) 3s as a freshman at LSU in 2011 and Scott Wood made 63 of 169 (37.3 percent) as a freshman for State in 2010.
Rowan still has a ways to catch up with Gottfried’s senior year totals at Alabama in 1987. Gottfried made 81 of 167 3-pointers (48.5 percent).
Gottfried laughs off the notion that he likes Rowan because he reminds of him of a younger version of Gottfried. “Baby Gott” was pretty good when N.C. State needed him against the Deacs.
“And he’s only going to get better,” Gottfried said.