It was the type of all-around team performance from the Wolfpack that many expected from the school entering the season. Led by their impressive frontcourt duo and arguably the best point guard in the conference, the Hokies were no match for the loaded N.C. State roster.
Now, it was Virginia Tech, and beating them isn’t the most groundbreaking thing in the world, but to ignore what the Wolfpack did today could result in significant problems for their next opponent, the Virginia Cavaliers.
Richard Howell led the way offensively with a monstrous 22 points and 12 rebounds, shooting 11 for 13 from the field. C.J. Leslie wasn’t far behind with 15 points and seven rebounds after shooting 9 for 14 from the free-throw line. T.J. Warren and Scott Wood also chipped in 13 points each.
However, the big story of the game was Lorenzo Brown’s outing, who appeared to take it personally he was left off the ACC All-Defensive and All-First teams with his performance against the Hokies.
Brown guarded ACC Player of the Year, Erick Green and held him to under 20 points for only the fourth team all season, while also nearly recording a triple-double in the process. The 6-foot-5 guard, and leading playmaker in the conference, finished with nine points, 12 assists and seven rebounds while only committing two turnovers in the contest.
Brown dominated the game with his ability to not only limit the opposition’s best player with his hard-nosed defense, but also the way he took care of the ball while routinely setting up his teammates over and over.
The junior is easily the Wolfpack’s best on-ball defender and if he is able to continue to harass opponents like he did with Green, then N.C. State’s chances of advancing to the tournament finals greatly increases.
The Wolfpack lost to Virginia in their only meeting this season in a close 58-55 contest on the Cavaliers’ home court on Jan. 29. One big factor that cannot be overlooked is Brown only played 10 minutes in the game after injuring his ankle. N.C. State’s offensive flow struggled after losing Brown and it wasn’t helped by the fact Leslie recorded seven turnovers in the contest either.
Leslie did manage to finish with a team high 20 points and 14 rebounds, along with Howell’s 12 points and 11 rebounds, proving the Wolfpack’s front court were free to operate as they pleased against the Cavaliers. With Brown appearing to be dialed in and in the zone offensively with his playmaking, finding his teammates in the post with repetition could be a problem Virginia has no answer for. In order to do so, however, they’ll need to stop Joe Harris, who finished with 22 points and shot 50% from the field in the first meeting.
The Wolfpack would love nothing more than to erase an earlier loss against an opponent that took away their conference tournament first round bye. N.C. State believes they are the better team and judging by their performance against the Hokies, they appear focused on proving it.
Then again, it was only Virginia Tech, and this is a Wolfpack team that has only been consistent at being inconsistent all year long.
Regardless, this still has the potential to turn into one of the best games in the entire ACC Tournament.