N.C. State's Richard Howell hangs on the rim after dunking the ball while being fouled in the second half of the Wolfpack's 88-59 victory over Northeastern. ETHAN HYMAN - email@example.com
Updated 9:38 p.m.
RALEIGH — N.C. State needed a drama-free game on Thursday night and Northeastern willingly played its role in an 88-59 runaway for the Wolfpack.
Playing for the third time in six days, and 48 hours after a dramatic last-second win over St. Bonaventure, the Wolfpack (8-4) dominated the Huskies early and got a chance to stretch its legs in the second half.
It has been a tough December for State, with a four-point loss at Stanford, followed by a five-win over N.C. Central, a 12-point loss to No. 1 Syracuse and Tuesday's wild finish in Rochester, N.Y.
C.J. Leslie's last-second shot gave the Pack a two-point win over the Bonnies on Tuesday. Leslie, and the Pack, showed no signs of an emotional hangover from that win. Leslie scored 16 points, 12 in the first half, with eight rebounds and four blocks to subdue a road-weary Northeastern team, which traveled to Ruston, La. on Tuesday night and has played four of its last six games on the road.
"That was a good game for us," coach Mark Gottfried said. "A lot of different players did a lot of things well for us,"
Instead of a white-knuckle finish, the Pack was able to execute early, build a 13-point halftime lead, which ballooned to 21 by in the first seven minutes of the second half, and allowed the Pack to cruise into the Christmas weekend.
"We didn't want to come out and mess around with these guys," Leslie said. "We knew if they hit a couple of shots, they would get confidence and we would be in for a long night. We jumped on them from the start and it ended well."
A 3-point-happy team, the Huskies beat St. John's earlier in the season when it found its outside rhythm. State held them to 4-for-18 from the 3 on Tuesday and shot blistering 61.3 percent in the second on its end.
Leslie played cramp-free for the second straight game and was able to watch from the bench and relax in the final minutes. Forward Richard Howell, 14 points and 12 rebounds, did the heavy lifting, with sophomore guard Lorenzo Brown continuing to show his improvement as a passer and running the offense. Brown finished with nine assists and added 16 points.
Reserve guard Alex Johnson (nine points) and forward Thomas de Thaey got extended minutes in the second half. For the first time since a 91-61 win over Morehead State, walk-on Staats Battle got into the mix, too, playing the final 2 minutes and draining a 3.
The game went so swimmingly, the services of shooting guard Scott Wood were barely needed. After scoring 20 points against St. Bonaventure, Wood had six on Thursday. The other four starters reached double-digits and the team finished with 24 assists on 33 field goals.
"That's becoming a good quality for our team," Gottfried said of the high number of assists. "They like to pass the ball."
Leslie made sure State didn't any second-half theatrics with a quick start. The Pack led 16-5 in the first 4 minutes and 28-12 after 12 minutes. The Huskies remained in shouting distance with 15 points from Joel Smith and 14 from Jonathan Lee.
Smith's 3 on the first possession of the second half made 38-28 but that's as close as Northeastern would get. Leslie and C.J. Williams (14 points, six assists) spurred a 12-4 run, which created the necessary cushion to set up the Pack's first double-digit win of the month and third this season.
"It's was definitely not nerve-racking as it was last game and last week," Howell said.