The Wolfpack (15-3 overall, 4-1 ACC) fights off a late charge by the Tigers to win its 11th home game of the season, as freshman T.J. Warren comes off the bench to score 21 points. The Pack travels to Winston-Salem, N.C., on Tuesday to face Wake Forest.
RALEIGH, N.C. – No. 14 NC State never trailed Sunday in its 66-62 victory over Clemson at PNC Arena, but that doesn’t mean the Tigers didn’t give the Wolfpack a scare on head coach Mark Gottfried’s birthday.
Scott Wood made three out of four free throws in the final minute and the Pack’s press created two backcourt turnovers in the closing seconds to secure the victory after the Tigers twice tied the game in the latter part of the second half.
State (15-3 overall, 4-1 ACC) opened the game with a 10-0 run, thanks to three quick 3-pointers by freshman Rodney Purvis, and never let the Tigers take it away. Freshman T.J. Warren scored 10 straight at one point and 14 in the first half as the Pack took a 34-26 advantage into intermission.
But the Tigers, behind the scoring of senior center Devin Booker and sophomore guard Rod Hall, stayed within striking distance. Senior forward Milton Jennings twice hit 3-pointers to tie the game.
In the end, however, Wood’s free-throw shooting saved the win, as the Pack won on its home court for the 11th consecutive game this season.
“We are kind of in an offensive funk right now where we are missing some shots that we normally make around the basket,” said Gottfried, who improved to 4-2 in games played on his birthday. “Rodney [Purvis] had a great start to the game. I loved his energy, knocking down the 3s, and then T.J. came off the bench and scored a lot of points.
“I would have liked to see the ball go inside a little more to [C.J. Leslie] to get him going a little bit. We have to do a better job of that in the future.”
Warren finished the game with 21 points, his highest scoring game since a Dec. 15 win over Norfolk State. Purvis added 11 points and Wood had 10. Senior center Richard Howell had his 10th double-double of the season and the 23rd of his career with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Junior C.J. Leslie was held to six points, breaking his string of 13 consecutive double-figure scoring games.
“T.J. did awfully well, not only scoring the ball but he had six rebounds as well,” Gottfried said. “He gave us a great lift off the bench, on a night when other players weren’t scoring as well.
“That’s the sign of a good team, to spread the scoring around.”
The Wolfpack led by as many as 11 points early in the first half and by 10 points in the second half.
Clemson cut that lead down to two points on Booker’s alley-oop dunk from Rod Hall with 8:43 remaining, but the Pack maintained its lead for the next five minutes.
Hall made back-to-back baskets with less than five minutes to play, cutting State’s lead down to 52-51 with 4:41 remaining.
After Warren made a layup following his own miss, Hall drove through the lane on the other end of the court and was fouled by Howell as the ball rolled in the basket, drawing the Tigers within one point again.
After an official timeout, Hall made his free throw for the first tie of the game, 54-54.
Jennings tied the game again with a 3-pointer with 2:20 to play. After Wood made three of four free throws to give the Pack a two-possession advantage, Jennings made another 3-pointer to close the gap to 63-62 with 12.9 seconds to play.
The Pack created two turnovers with its press, and Brown and Wood made free throws to secure the final margin.
The first half belonged to a pair of the Wolfpack’s heralded freshmen. Purvis made a trio of 3-pointers in the game’s first five minutes, matching his collegiate high that he set against Miami of Ohio, Penn State and Boston College.
Warren, who was held scoreless in Wednesday’s game at Maryland, came off the bench to contribute 10 consecutive points during one stretch late in the opening half, pushing the Pack’s lead to 28-22.
Included in his run was a traditional three-point play, his first 3-pointer since the Western Michigan game on Dec. 29 and a pair of layups.
He scored two more baskets after a Richard Howell put-back to lead the Wolfpack with 14 points in the first half. The Pack never trailed in the opening period and led 34-26 at intermission.
Gottfried and his team will have a quick turnaround as they head to Wake Forest on Tuesday night to face the Demon Deacons at Lawrence Joel Memorial Auditorium. The game is slated to tip off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast live on regional sports networks and ESPN3.
“We have to get our legs back under us on Monday,” Gottfried said. “Hopefully tonight, the guys will get some rest. It’s a quick turnaround, but it is part of the turf here in the ACC.”
The Pack’s next home game will be Saturday against North Carolina, a 7 p.m. contest that is sold out.
Earlier in the day on Saturday, the Wolfpack will host ESPN Game Day at PNC Arena, with live broadcasts from the court throughout the morning. Fans are encouraged to attend the free event, with several giveaways to fans in the stands. PNC Arena doors open at 8:30 a.m.