Wolfpack upsets No. 23 Demon Deacons

North Carolina State didn’t blow another big halftime lead against

an upper-division Atlantic Coast Conference team.

Farnold Degand hit two 3-pointers in the decisive second-half

run that helped the Wolfpack beat No. 23 Wake Forest 68-54 on

Saturday, snapping a five-game losing streak with their first

league win in a month.

Tracy Smith scored 14 points to lead the Wolfpack (15-13,

3-10), who led the entire game but needed three straight 3s from

Degand and Javi Gonzalez with about 6 minutes left to get firm

control.

It was quite a reversal from Wednesday’s loss to Maryland, a

game in which the Wolfpack blew a 10-point halftime lead in an ugly

second-half collapse. This time, N.C. State led 28-18 at halftime,

but protected that lead and even pushed ahead by 17 in the final

seconds to release some of the pressure that had built in the RBC

Center.

“Some relief? Absolutely,” NC State coach Sidney Lowe said.

“When you’ve been struggling as we’ve been, it’s more frustrating

because I know the guys want it so bad and I’ve said it all year:

we’ll lose a tough game and the next day the guys will come back in

practice and they won’t let anything get them down.

“I’m glad that something good happened for them with all the

work they’ve put in and the positive attitude they’re keeping. I’m

glad to see that those shots went down.”

N.C. State hadn’t won an ACC game since its upset of Duke on

Jan. 20. Six of its seven league losses since had come by at least

nine points with two against struggling rival North Carolina, which

has just three league victories.

The only streak worth talking about after this game was the

Wolfpack’s five straight wins against the Demon Deacons (18-7, 8-5)

in Raleigh.

“Definitely you get tired of losing,” said senior Dennis

Horner, who had 10 points and 12 rebounds. “This puts us on a path

to finish the ACC season and hopefully we can get a streak going of

wins now that will lead us into the ACC tournament.”

Al-Farouq Aminu had 15 points and 14 rebounds for Wake

Forest, which had a miserable afternoon from the tip. The Demon

Deacons hadn’t lost in nearly three weeks before blowing an

11-point lead at Virginia Tech on Tuesday night, then shot just 35

percent and went 0 of 12 from 3-point range while committing 23

turnovers Saturday.

Their first-half numbers were even more abysmal: the Demon

Deacons had twice as many turnovers (15) as field goals (7) and

shot 26 percent.

“I thought they came out and set a certain tone for the game

and I don’t think we adjusted to the way the game was being

played,” Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio said. “I thought we were

getting the right shots from the right guys. I just though we

turned it over too much.”

The game marked the first time the Demon Deacons hadn’t hit a

3-pointer since beating Tulane in February 1992, ending a streak of

575 straight games. For N.C. State, it marked the first time an

opponent didn’t make a 3 since Maryland failed to do it in a

Wolfpack win in January 1990, a streak of 633 games.

Wake Forest’s C.J. Harris, who came in averaging about 10

points per game, went scoreless on 0-for-9 shooting, while fellow

freshman Ari Stewart — who had a team-high 32 3s — went 0-for-4

from behind the arc.

“They played tenacious defense and they were locked on,”

Stewart said. “They knew that C.J. and I, they knew that both of us

are pretty good 3-point shooters, so they played with some urgency.

When we got the ball, they smothered us so we couldn’t get our

shots up.”

N.C. State shot just 40 percent, but came through at the

right moment.

Clinging to a 48-41 lead, Degand took a feed from Horner and

knocked down a straightaway 3 to push the margin to 10. Then, after

a stop, Gonzalez knocked down a 3 from almost the same spot to make

it 54-41.

Degand came through again, answering a jumper from L.D.

Williams with the team’s third straight 3 to give the Wolfpack a

57-43 lead with 4:07 left and send the home crowd into a roar. Wake

Forest got no closer than 10 points from there.

In addition, sophomore C.J. Williams finished with 12 points

and knocked down two 3-pointers in the second half after going just

2 of 17 from behind the arc since mid-December.

“I felt as if that was the dagger that put the game away

basically for us,” Degand said of the three 3s. “Everybody

contributed to that, came through in the clutch and did a really

good job.”