GREENSBORO — N.C. State couldn't buy a free throw. Elon couldn't miss a 3-pointer.
That combination left the Wolfpack in a 10-point hole twice in the first half of Wednesday's game at the Greensboro Coliseum. Just when N.C. State's dress rehearsal for the ACC tournament was about to turn into a disaster, Tracy Smith and Scott Wood made sure the Wolfpack left the Coliseum with a 87-72 win.
Smith scored 15 points, all but four in the second half, and Wood found the range for 13 points, 11 in the second half, to put away the determined Phoenix (6-8).
Elon dropped its fourth game of the season to an ACC opponent but led for the game's first 22 minutes thanks to a 5-of-7 start from the 3-point line and a 18-of-18 start from the free-throw line.
The Pack (10-4) started 7-of-16 from the free-throw line and ignored Smith, making his first start since Nov. 18, for long stretches of the first half while Elon built leads of 26-16 and 39-29. A mini-run at the end of the half by State cut the advantage to 41-37 at the break.
On the first possession of the second half, State punched the ball into Smith on the low block and he promptly delivered two points. In his second game back from knee surgery after missing 10, Smith played 27 minutes and hit 4-of-7 from the floor and added five rebounds.
Then Wood, as he did in the same building last season against Florida State in the ACC tournament, caught fire with three 3s in a 3-minutes span. The last of Wood's triples gave the Pack a 53-46 lead with 14:58 left.
Elon fought back behind senior guard Chris Long (game-high 20 points) and never-ending parade of made free throws. It wasn't until the 4:26 mark when Drew Spradlin missed that the Phoenix missed a free throw.
Elon cooled off from the 3, making just four of the final 12, while State finished 15-of-18 from the free-throw line.
N.C. State freshmen C.J. Leslie (19 points) and Ryan Harrow (17) held the offense afloat in the first half. The freshmen got more help in the second half for State's fourth straight win and 10th of the season to complete State's nonconference schedule.
The next 16 games are against the ACC. The 17th will be back in this building for the conference tournament.
Photo: N.C. State's Tracy Smith (23) shoots over Elon's Sebastian Koch (24) and Scott Grable (33). ETHAN HYMAN - firstname.lastname@example.org