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State Now is your place for Wolfpack sports. Beat writer Joe Giglio has up-to-the-minute news and analysis. Columnist Luke DeCock also contributes. Follow us on Twitter at @jwgiglio or @accnow.

N.C. State beats Western Michigan 84-68

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Updated 3:40 p.m.
RALEIGH --
Just like the previous game against St. Bonaventure, Richard Howell fouled out against Western Michigan on Saturday.

And just like the St. Bonaventure game, N.C. State beat the Broncos going away, 84-68, but Howell atoned for a scoreless effort against the Bonnies with 19 points and nine rebounds on Saturday.

The senior forward added three assists and two blocks and overcame a minor ankle sprain in the second half.

"Richard's a great player and great player's bounce back," forward C.J. Leslie said. "I knew he would come out strong."

Howell made all eight of his field goals and rebounded from an off game and Leslie rebounded from a slow start to give the 23rd-ranked Wolfpack (10-2) its six straight win.

Leslie scored 14 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, to match the 14 that Howell scored in the first half.

Leslie, who was coming off of a career-best 33 points against the Bonnies, made only one field goal in the first half, and got into a brief disagreement with coach Mark Gottfried on the bench, before turning his game around in the second half.

"That's part of the game," Leslie said of the interaction with an agitated Gottfried, who was imploring his star forward for more several times in the first half.

Leslie delivered in the second half, especially after Howell tweaked his left ankle, with a strong performance from the free-throw line. Leslie made 9 of his 11 free throws and finished with three steals and seven rebounds.

"He was a lot more active as the game wore on," Gottfried said. "He was blocking shots, getting rebounds and running the floor. He was a different player. He's got to play like that all the time."

Western Michigan (8-5) finished the game with 22 offensive rebounds, which irked Gottfried, particularly in the first half when it was still a tight game.

WMU took a 24-21 lead on a putback basket by guard Connar Tava at the 9:32, which prompted Gottfried to sub for Leslie and the two exchanged words on the bench.

The game was tied at 32 with 3 minutes left in the first half when an offensive rebound by WMU's Shayne Whittington prompted a foot stomp and yell from Gottfried: "Get a rebound!"

"We gave up too many offensive rebounds, way too many of them," Gottfried said after the game. "And they turned a lot of them in the first half into baskets."

Sixteen of the Broncos' 26 second-chance points came in the first half. Even with Howell's 14 points in the first half, State's lead was only 43-36.

With Leslie in high gear, and freshman forward T.J. Warren adding 15 points off the bench, the Pack led by as many as 21 in the second half.

Leslie's assist to Warren at 12:03 in the second half stretched the Pack's lead to 59-45. A technical foul on WMU coach Steve Hawkins on the next possession opened the floodgates.

The defensive effort in the second half, led by four steals from guard Lorenzo Brown, pleased Gottfried. As did the team's 17 assists, on 30 field goals, and 54.5 percent shooting — the Pack's 10th time this season over 50 percent.

It all added up to State's sixth straight win since a 79-72 road loss to Michigan on Nov. 27. The Pack faces UNC-Greensboro on Monday before ACC play begins next Saturday at Boston College.

"We're doing a lot of things well right now but I still think we can get a lot better," Gottfried said.

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Good Win

Watched the game twice. I watched the tape because I was not sure just how good Wertern Mich was. They played tough and made a lot of shots, but the worst thing was the way they outrebounded us. However, the Pack built a big lead in the 2nd half and then protected it well to win going away. Not something we've done in previous years. When Gott said, "He's got to play like that all the time," I wanted to add, "like Richard." The man plays hard anytime he is on the floor..steve'73

2nd Half Team

Had the rare opportunity to watch the game with my son, as we are visiting him for the holidays. I told him late in the first half that the Pack has been a second half team so far this year. They proved me right again, although the surge just before halftime set them up nicely to build on the lead in the 2nd half.

I think Gott has done a nice job of improving the non-conference schedule. On balance, the level of competition has been better than in past years. Western Michigan has some really good players who can compete with anyone. Gott also has done a better job of preparing the team for those games. The Pack typically has lost one or two of those games they should have won. That hasn't happened this year. It bodes well for the rest of the season.

Lastly, your comment about Richard Howell is spot on. As good as CJ Leslie has been this year, he still takes too many plays off. If he played with the consistent intensity that Richard has this year, he would be a favorite for National POY.

2nd Half Team

Delete duplication

huh?

Seriously, twice? Well, I checked the score twice on my way to the UNC game, but figured that State would have no trouble with WM.

Seriously, twice,

but i was trying to help my 85 yr old mother learn how to use an iPad during the live telecast. Needless to say, I missed a lot the 1st time. steve'73

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About the blogger

Joe Giglio covers the ACC for the News & Observer, where he has worked since 1997.
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