RALEIGH — N.C. State saved its best, or at least its most complete win, for the 2011-12 ACC champions.
With a decisive rebounding edge and its defense clicking, the Wolfpack throttled Florida State 84-66 on Tuesday night for its first dominant win in league play this season.
"We needed a game like this," N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. "We needed to play well and feel good about how we played."
With 31 points and 13 rebounds from forward T.J. Warren, both season-best numbers for the freshman, N.C. State won its third straight ACC game and improved to 8-5 in the league.
N.C. State (19-7) has had big wins this season, beating both Duke and North Carolina at home, but it hasn't won big in ACC play. Tuesday was the Pack's first double-digit win since a 13-point win over Georgia Tech on Jan. 13, but even in that game, State trailed at the half.
"I was telling the guys, we haven't had a blowout game in awhile," said junior guard Lorenzo Brown, who finished with nine assists. "It was about time to get one."
FSU, the 2012 ACC champs, looked and played nothing like the previous tough, defensive-minded versions under coach Leonard Hamilton. The Seminoles (14-12, 6-7 ACC) were indifferent on defense and absent on the glass.
N.C. State out-rebounded FSU 45 to 21 overall and 21 to 6 on the offensive glass. Both rebounding numbers were the best this season for the Wolfpack, which had been out-rebounded in each of the past three games and five times in ACC play.
"Coach has stressed to me the importance of rebounding," Warren said.
The 6-8 freshman got the message with eight offensive boards and helped the Pack outscore FSU 29-6 in second-chance points. Warren scored 20 of his 31 points in the second half and finished with the third-most points by a freshman in school history.
The Wolfpack destroyed the Seminoles on the offensive glass in the first half, 10 to 1, and had seven steals to build a 40-30 halftime advantage. Midway through the second half, N.C. State was in complete control of the game and the Pack rounded into highlight mode. C.J. Leslie's tomahawk dunk, after FSU's bigs vacated the lane, at 11:22 in the second half stretched the Wolfpack's lead to 60-43.
FSU, with 20 points from senior guard Michael Snaer, cut the Pack's lead to 65-55 with 6:53 to play but Warren responded with his second 3-pointer of the game. Scott Wood (13 points) followed with one of his three 3s and the Pack's breathing room was restored.
Leslie's alley-oop, off an inbounds play, at 2:18 put the exclamation point on the Wolfpack's first win over FSU since the 2010 ACC tournament. Leslie finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds; he also had three "SportsCenter" quality dunks, including a sweeping, all-in-one-motion follow of a Richard Howell miss in the first half.
Brown was asked to describe Leslie's highlight dunk.
"Which one?" Brown quipped.
It was that kind of night for N.C. State, which needed overtime to outlast last-place Virginia Tech on Saturday and a 3-pointer with 1 second left to escape Clemson on Feb. 10 with a one-point win.
All of N.C. State's usual problems — defense, rebounding, free-throw shooting — disappeared for one night against a green and unorganized FSU team. N.C. State equaled its best mark in ACC play with nine steals and it made 25 of 31 free throws for the game, including a 9 of 11 start.
Warren, a 51.7 percent free-throw shooter, made all five of his free throws and 12 of his 15 field goals.
"My teammates did a good of finding me and everything just fell into place," Warren said.