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January 20, 2013
NC State senior small forward Scott Wood and junior point guard Lorenzo Brown weren't worried about the statistics or if the Wolfpack played pretty.
The veteran duo have been around long enough and played in enough close games to know that he only worries about the final outcome in ACC action.
Clemson put itself in position to pull off a victory against No. 14 NC State, but the Wolfpack made enough plays and free throws down the stretch to pull out the 66-62 victory Sunday in front of a sold out crowd at PNC Arena.
"I could really care less how many points I have or could really care less how many points someone else has," Wood said. "If I'm on top, that's all that matters."
Brown called the Wolfpack's combined loss to Maryland on Wednesday, and follow-up win over Clemson part of a mini-slump.
"We got the W, so that's all that matters," Brown said. "Coach [Mark Gottfried] will get it straightened out. We should do well next game."
Freshman forward T.J. Warren paced NC State with 21 points to help the Wolfpack improve to 15-3 overall and 4-1 in the ACC. Clemson fell to 10-7 and 2-3 in the league.
"They know what I can do and I do it all the time," Warren said. "I just want to show everybody what I can do. I was real big and I was able to step up. It was a good game for me and I want to keep it up, and keep winning."
NC State tried to deliver an early knockout blow after surging to a 13-2 lead behind three 3-pointers from freshman shooting guard Rodney Purvis, who finished the game with 11 points.
The momentum proved to be short-lived, and Clemson made the adjustment to ride senior center Devin Booker relentlessly inside. He single-handedly kept the Tigers offense afloat throughout the game, but especially in the first half with 18 of his career-high 27 points.
"He was getting where he wanted to go on the floor and using his size to establish his presence down low," Wood said. "[But] His team lost. That's all that matters."
Booker scored 10 of the Tigers' first 12 points of the game to cut the Wolfpack lead to 18-12 with 8:19 left in the first half. Booker finished the first half with 18 points on 9 of 12 field goals, which eclipsed his previous best of eight field goals in a game.
Warren sparked NC State's offense after entering the game with 10:21 left in the first half. He went to work with 10 straight points to rebuild NC State's lead to 28-18 with 4:30 remaining before halftime.
Warren finished with 14 of his 21 points in the first half and helped him snap out of a mini-slump after scoring 10 points over the last three games, including going scoreless against Georgia Tech and Maryland.
"T.J. had a break out game today, so I'm proud of him," Brown said.
NC State kept a nice buffer lead, but Clemson made its move around the 10-minute mark during the second half. Booker got back-to-back dunks to cut NC State's lead to 49-47 with 8:40 remaining.
Junior power forward C.J. Leslie had a low-key game while battling Booker and CU senior power forward Milton Jennings, but responded with a layup and split a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to 52-47 with 6:35 left.
NC State and Clemson were in a dogfight from that point on, but the Tigers never could get the lead. Clemson last tied it with 2:23 left on a Jennings' 3-pointer, and he later cut the lead to 63-62 with 14 seconds left with another jumper from beyond the arc.
"We should be a team that executes under duress, in late-game situations," said Gottfried, who was celebrating his birthday. "We wanted to attack hard in the second half. I thought in the first half, we settled for some jump shots and just didn't get the ball aggressively enough to the basket."
Wood iced the contest with 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch, and the Tigers' turned it over twice on their final two possessions.
"You just have to go out there and get it," Wood said. "If you want it, you have to go out there and play defense and execute and take it from them. I felt like we did a good job at times, but felt we could have done a better job."
NC State featured four players in double figures — Warren with 21 and Purvis, Wood and senior center Richard Howell all scoring 11 points apiece.
Howell's three-point play with 1:55 left broke open a tied game to give the Wolfpack a 60-57 lead. He added 12 rebounds for another double-double despite playing under the weather.
"We just have to keep hooping because I feel like a lot of things get to us, with different players on the team," Howell said. "That is the kind of stuff we have to eliminate for us to be successful in the tournament."
Clemson sophomore point guard Rod Hall was able to get into the lane to help out Booker. He scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half to spark the Tigers backcourt. However, the other three Clemson guards combined to go 1 of 13 from the field for four points.
NC State held Clemson to 40.6 percent from the field and 5 of 19 from three-point land. The Wolfpack's switch to a zone defense for a few second-half minutes — similar to the Maryland game Wednesday — disrupted the Tigers' ability to free up Booker in the paint.
"They mixed in some zone and really packed it in," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. "They mixed in a lot of different things, and it was hard to get him [Booker] the ball in the second half. But we did score 36 points, so we executed well I thought."
NC State returns to action Tuesday at Wake Forest, before returning home to host ESPN GameDay and rival North Carolina on Saturday. Both teams are the Wolfpack's "ACC partners." The Wolfpack have had a knack of blowing out the Demon Deacons the last few years.
"You can't go in there with that kind of mindset," said Wood about having some lop-sided wins over WFU of late. "They are going to come out and they remember those losses just as much as we remember those wins. I'm sure their crowd will be ready for us."
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