RALEIGH – When he’s in rhythm, Scott Wood is a zone-buster.
Facing a tightly packed 2-3 zone, the 6-foot-7 sophomore small forward elevated with confidence and knocked down four critical 3-pointers in the second half of N.C. State’s hard-fought 77-67 victory over Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday.
Down by 10 points at halftime, the Knights outscored the Wolfpack 9-3 in the first four minutes of the second half, rebounding inside and closing to within four points.
That rally was short-lived as Wood hit three consecutive 3-pointers over a three-minute period to spark a 10-0 run. His 3-pointer with 12 minutes, 57 seconds to go gave the Pack (4-1) a 52-38 lead and it eventually – though it took some time – put away a crafty-yet-overmatched Knights squad before an announced crowd of 10,327 at the RBC Center.
“That was a game-changer,” State sophomore DeShawn Painter said.
Wood entered Saturday’s game shooting 34.5 percent from 3-point range this season. He finished with 12 points on Saturday, shooting 4 for 5 from the arc, lifting his team from one of several offensive slumps that defined its uninspired performance against the Knights (0-3).
“I just got good open looks,” said Wood, who also collected four rebounds and four steals.
His open shots came as a result of a halftime adjustment where State players passed quicker around the perimeter.
Freshman guard Lorenzo Brown finished with a team-high 13 points, six assists, five rebounds, two blocks, two steals and two turnovers, while Painter added 12 points and four rebounds.
The Knights play in the Northeast conference, though were clearly unafraid to attack the basket against a State team that appeared sluggish defensively and lacked the tenacity coach Sidney Lowe wants.
The Knights outscored the Pack 42-28 in the paint, 21-11 on second-chance baskets and 16-4 on fastbreaks. They also outrebounded the Pack 46-39.
Knights senior guard Terence Grier scored a game-high 23 points. His teammate Mike Scott added 11 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
“Our kids didn’t quit,” said Fairleigh Dickinson coach Greg Vetrone, whose team trailed by just seven points with 46 seconds remaining.
With road games against Wisconsin on Dec. 1 and Syracuse on Dec. 4, State’s effort on Saturday certainly fell short of what it will take to beat high-caliber teams. Lowe expressed that to his team afterward.
“We can’t afford to come out and mess around and turn the ball over,” he said. “The message to them was: We’re not good enough yet to come out like that. We’re not good enough to take it light on any team. We haven’t done anything yet.”
It was State’s first game since reaching the title game of the Charleston Classic in Charleston, S.C. a week ago.
The Pack fell, 82-67, to No. 16 Georgetown in the final, playing without senior forward Tracy Smith who had arthroscopic knee surgery last Friday.
Smith, last season’s leading scorer and rebounder, is expected to return in December after missing three weeks.
Pack sophomore forward Richard Howell (eight points) started along with Painter. Freshman C.J. Leslie (five points), who had started in the previous game, came off the bench with backup center Jordan Vandenberg (four points) and junior C.J. Williams (eight points).
Painter, at 6-9 and 227 pounds, worked for position inside and several times during the Pack’s first-half run either scored or drew a foul from his hustle.
During one first-half possession, Painter powered across the lane and spun in a layup off glass, getting fouled in the process. He knocked down a free-throw to complete the three-point play.
Lowe complimented his reserve post players. His bigger concern was the team’s overall lethargy.
There were excuses batted around from holiday turkey to low fan-turnout that caused State’s malaise.
“That’s just an excuse,” Wood said. “Everybody gets up for open gym. ... You have to squash those kind of teams when they come in here. If you play like that against Wisconsin or Syracuse, you’re going to get knocked out real early.”
Photo: N.C. State's forward Scott Wood (15) launches one of his 3-pointers during the second half over the outstretched hands of Fairleigh Dickinson forward Mathias Seilund (22). GREG MINTEL - newsobserver.com