Stanford defeated the Wolfpack 76-74 on home court last season and four starters from that game for North Carolina State weren’t going to let it happen again.
Hosting the Cardinals this season and both teams maintaining similar cores from a year ago, Scott Wood, Richard Howell, Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie led the way to a 84-73 Wolfpack win.
Brown had his highest scoring total of the year as the playmaker finished with 24 points to go along with five assists and three rebounds. He doubled his scoring performance of 12 points in the losing effort a season ago, taking over in the second half to score 18 points.
Wood, who only finished with eight points a year ago against the Cardinals, nearly doubled that by half-time. The sharpshooter started things early with five three-pointers in the first half to finish with 17 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Howell missed out on a double-double with eight points and eight rebounds last season but wasn’t denied this year finishing with 17 points, 12 rebounds and two assists.
Leslie was the only starter from a year ago to put up similar numbers this time around against Stanford recording 16 points, six rebounds and two blocks. He finished with 14 points, two rebounds and three blocks last year.
The four Wolfpack starters made it clear this game was about getting payback for a loss the team believes never should have happened. All four finished with at least 35 minutes of playing time, as impressive freshmen T.J. Warren and Rodney Purvis were not needed in this contest. The two combined for only 10 points in the win, making it only the third time this season one of them failed to score in double-figures.
The performance displays a Wolfpack team that appears to coming together as a cohesive unit. The team began the year with chemistry issues after being caught off-guard with how instantly effective Warren and Purvis were upon entering the line-up. The team was caught off-guard with their production and tried to find a way to get everybody involved. This hurt the team’s already established players as they had to get away from their known roles to try and fit the rookies in.
Leslie was the scorer, Brown was the playmaker, Howell was the rebounder and Wood was the floor-stretcher. With the freshmen’s hot start, roles became confused, with Purvis often having the ball in his hands and Warren scoring at a ridiculous pace for a freshman.
Now it’s beginning to appear like the Wolfpack freshmen have settled down and accepted their role as complimentary pieces to North Carolina State’s strong core. If that remains to be the case, and the freshmen understand their roles as they did against Stanford, the team’s success will come through its four core players.
The Wolfpack are about to become the dominate team preseason predictions expected them to be.