Three Points from N.C. State's 66-62 win over Clemson:
1) Winning with the changeup
There's winning without your fastball and then there's winning without your fastball, curveball or slider. That's what N.C. State did on Sunday.
C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown scored six points each and the Wolfpack's veteran quartet finished the game with fewer combined field goals (10) than Clemson's Devin Booker (13) had by himself.
The constant for N.C. State this season is the play of senior forward Richard Howell, who turned in another double-double (11 points and 12 boards) and the variable is senior guard Scott Wood (see: The Rule of Four). But it's Leslie and Brown who usually make State go.
That wasn't the case on Sunday, which makes the win unusual, to say the least. Where would State have been without 21 points from freshman T.J. Warren off the bench?
"We did a good job on Scott Wood and all their main guys really," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. "Credit T.J. Warren for a phenomenal night."
Warren was scoreless in Wednesday's one-point loss at Maryland and motivated to bounce back on Sunday.
"I really thought about it, if I would have had two points in that game (Maryland), we would have won," Warren said Sunday.
Fellow freshman Rodney Purvis also rebounded from an off game at Maryland with 11 points, nine in the first four and half minutes on a trio of 3-pointers.
Warren and Purvis were a combined 1 of 13 against Maryland and 13 of 18 against Clemson. (You think location might factor in a freshman's psyche?)
It wasn't all Warren and Purvis against Clemson. A late defensive switch to a zone helped in the second half and Howell and Wood made the necessary plays in the final moments.
It was the first time since the Oklahoma State loss on Nov. 18 that Leslie failed to reach double-digits in points. He only took seven shots (and made two) in 35 minutes.
"We need to get him the ball more," N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said.
For all of the ups and downs in Leslie's career, he has only had seven (out of 37) ACC games in single digits and N.C. State has won four of those games.
Clearly, when Leslie and Brown are rolling (see the Duke game), N.C. State is at its best but it's a sign of progress it found a way to win without the fastball from either. Not that Gottfried is concerned he'll have to win too many more games with those type of numbers from Leslie or Brown.
"I think they'll be fine," Gottfried said. "I don't worry about that."
2) Which Booker was that?
Trevor Booker was an All-ACC forward in 2010, led Clemson to the NCAA tournament three times and is in his third season in the NBA.
Devin Booker knew he would always be in his brother's shadow at Clemson but he stepped out for a few hours on Sunday. Booker was unstoppable for 32 minutes, pouring in a career-best 27 points despite the best efforts on defense of Richard Howell. Against Duke last week, Howell limited Mason Plumlee to 15 points.
"Man, I didn't know he had 27, geez," Howell said. "That's a good game by him but we definitely need to pick it up on the defensive end."
Booker moved at will through paint, especially in the first half. He had 18 points, while State was mostly in man defense and inexplicably not trying to double down on Booker.
"He's just strong, I thought Richard was strong but he's about the strongest guy I've every played against," N.C. State guard Lorenzo Brown said.
After a halfcourt alley-oop from Rod Hall to Booker with 8:38 left in the game, State went to a 2-3 zone. Booker didn't score for the rest of the game and only took one more shot. Most of that was N.C. State's defense finally being focused on Booker and some of it was Hall was able to exploit State's zone, so there wasn't a need to force the ball to Booker.
It was the first time Booker scored 20 points in an ACC game and second time in 114 college games (he had 22 against East Tennessee State last season).
3) The curse of the black uniforms?
N.C. State wore all black uniforms and didn't lose 78-73 in excruciating fashion. That's progress.
It was the first time State wore black at home (the other two times, in 2000 and 2012, were road losses) and it was nice touch to hand out black t-shirts to the student section.
N.C. State's 2-0 this season in special uniforms (the "Don't Give up" jerseys from the Jimmy V Classic win over UConn) and the way the players (and recruits) enjoy the change of pace, I'm guessing we'll see more variations going forward.
Also, on the crowd front, the game was sold out (19,557) for the third time this season. Only the UNC and Syracuse games sold out last season. N.C. State is also now 11-0 at home this season.