Wolfpack finding groove again in March
N.C. State (24-9, 11-7 ACC) found something special when it made a March run last year, first to the ACC Tournament semifinals and then to the Sweet 16.
It’s at least duplicated the first part of that run this year, reaching the ACC Tournament semifinals for the second straight year with a 75-56 win over No. 4 seed Virginia on Friday.
“I think our team is beginning to find that ‘groove’,” N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried said. “I like to use that word. I think we’re getting in a good spot.”
N.C. State has certainly found a groove in the ACC Tournament, winning its first two games in dominating fashion. On Thursday, N.C. State had to shut down the nation’s leading scorer in Virginia Tech’s Erick Green. The Wolfpack passed that test, and then it had to slow down one of the leading scorers in league play, Joe Harris.
N.C. State’s Scott Wood, hardly known as a shutdown defender, did a great job on Harris, limiting him to 13 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Wood wasn’t just a defensive presence today, though - the senior sharp-shooter had a game-high 23 points on 7-of-12 shooting (all from three).
“He stepped up today and not only was he working hard defensively but he changed the game, period. He’s been doing it all year for us, he’s won games for us at the end and today I thought he had a couple of stretches where he was where he was outstanding,” Gottfried said.
N.C. State took control quickly and never looked back. The game was close in the first half, but a run spanning both halves gave the Wolfpack a big cushion and Wood’s scoring was a big reason why.
Wood hit his first three-point attempt with 6:01 to go in the first half, and he’d hit three in a row in the first 2:27 of the second half to give N.C. State a 16-point lead. The Wolfpack wouldn’t trail again.
“I’m not one to go into the huddle and say ‘give me the ball’, but it feels good when you’re knocking down your shots. It gives you the confidence to know the next one is going in. They did a great job of finding me to get me easy ones,” Wood said.
With Wood’s second three-pointer, he became the N.C. State all-time career leader in three-pointers made, passing Rodney Monroe. Wood has 326 three-pointers, three behind Wake Forest’s Randolph Childress for sixth place in ACC history.
C.J. Leslie had 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, while T.J. Warren had 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting. Lorenzo Brown had just nine points, but added six assists and one turnover. He has 18 assists to three turnovers in two ACC Tournament games.
Brown didn’t play in the first meeting against Virginia earlier this year, and Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said State's a different team with Brown in the lineup.
“He makes them go” Bennett said. “He played 10 minutes against us (earlier this year) and rolled his ankle and that changes the complex of the game when he’s on the floor.”
N.C. State will face top-seeded Miami in the first semifinal on Saturday at 1 p.m. Miami knocked off No. 8 seed Boston College in the first quarterfinal on Friday, 69-58. N.C. State lost its only game against Miami this year, which was also N.C. State’s only home loss, by one point on a tip-in at the buzzer.
Miami is in its second ACC Tournament semifinal since joining the ACC in 2005, while N.C. State will try to go to its first ACC Tournament championship game since 2007. The Wolfpack hasn’t won the title since 1987.