N.C. State's C.J. Leslie (5) slams in two as Maryland's Alex Len (25) tries to defend in the first half. ETHAN HYMAN - firstname.lastname@example.org
RALEIGH – Once again, N.C. State won a game with a collection of players fulfilling their roles, not having just one star individual who carried the rest.
That was the formula N.C. State used in a closer-than-it-looked 79-74 win over Maryland on Sunday night.
And executing this type of game plan set in by first-year coach Mark Gottfried will most likely determined whether the Wolfpack reach their ultimate goal: the NCAA Tournament.
In the ACC opener for both teams, the Wolfpack showed more maturity in the second half. They limited their turnovers. They helped each other on the defensive end. And when it was time to pull away and win the game, the Wolfpack did just that.
With less than eight minutes left, Gottfried was more animated than usual in demanding his team get stops on defense.
The Wolfpack responded.
N.C. State held Maryland scoreless for more than three minutes, which was enough time to build a comfortable cushion. The Wolfpack also turned the Terrapins over 15 times.
On offense, forward C.J. Leslie led the Wolfpack with 20 points and 10 rebounds (five offensive). Leslie played with an energy level that the Terrapins couldn’t match.
It didn’t matter who first-year Maryland coach Mark Turgeon had defend Leslie. Whether it was Maryland center Alex Len or forward James Padgett, Leslie used his agility to get by defenders for easy layups and dunks.
Leslie made a few highlight-reel plays, but it was his acrobatic move with six minutes left that produced the biggest roar from the near-selloutcrowd at the RBC Center.
After a miss jumper from guard C.J. Williams, Leslie jumped in the air, grabbed the rebound and scored before landing on his feet – and he did this while being fouled. The three-point play gave N.C. State its first double-digit lead.
From there, the Wolfpack (12-4, 1-0 ACC) kept the Terrapins (10-3, 0-1) at a distance.
Forwards Scott Wood (19 points) and Richard Howell (10) were also instrumental in giving N.C. State a slight rebounding advantage.
Maryland guard Terrell Stoglin kept the Terrapins close with a game-high 25 points. But in the second half, Stoglin struggled from behind the three-point line.
Now, the Wolfpack will host Georgia Tech on Wednesday night.
Earlier this week, Gottfried said he felt the Wolfpack needed to win 11 ACC games in order to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006.
After getting what should be a confidence-building victory over Maryland, the Wolfpack are one game closer to reaching their goal.