No. 16 NC State 82, UNC Asheville 80

Richard Howell kept ripping down rebounds and tussling in the

paint until he came through with the clutch plays that helped No.

16 North Carolina State regroup from its first loss of the


As for the rest of the game, well, coach Mark Gottfried had

plenty of reason for frustration.

Howell scored 23 points, including the go-ahead basket with 3:06

left, to help the Wolfpack rally past UNC Asheville 82-80 on Friday

night. But N.C. State trailed nearly the entire game and couldn’t

shake free of the Bulldogs until the final minutes, turning what

should have been a chance to bounce back into a flirtation with an

ugly home loss.

”We’ve got to be better,” Gottfried said. ”We’ve got to be

better defensively. We’ve got to develop better chemistry amongst

our team. We’ve got to develop a team spirit that is all about

winning – period. Nothing else.

”If we do that, we’ve got a chance to be a good team. If we

don’t, then we’re just another team out there playing.”

For most of Friday night, N.C. State (4-1) looked like the

latter. The Wolfpack kept bumbling away possessions, couldn’t stop

UNC Asheville’s Jeremy Atkinson and just looked a step slow en

route to trailing by seven with 8 1/2 minutes left.

Howell’s big night helped reverse that, from his 15 rebounds to

his two key free throws with 5 seconds left that helped secure the


”We’re satisfied with the win but we’re not satisfied with the

type of win,” Howell said. ”We felt like we should’ve come out

and played with the same energy (we had) the last 6 minutes of the

game. If we played like that, then I feel it wouldn’t have been a


Things will have to get better quickly. N.C. State travels to

No. 4 Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday night.

N.C. State was coming off a 20-point loss to Oklahoma State in

the Puerto Rico Tipoff championship game Sunday. Its struggles

continued against an aggressive and opportunistic bunch of Bulldogs

(1-5) who wouldn’t go away.

While N.C. State shot 62 percent after halftime and 56 percent

for the game, it committed 19 turnovers that UNC Asheville

converted into 31 points. The Bulldogs scored the game’s first six

points to build some confidence, trailed for just 22 seconds in the

first half and kept the Wolfpack chasing them all night.

”I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I was expecting to blow them

out by 40,” said senior Scott Wood, who had 14 points and a pair

of late jumpers in the decisive surge. ”That’s how I feel about

every team I play. I mean, it was a close game. They played

extremely well. But at the same time, I feel like we need to come

out there and try to step on their throats early.”

Meanwhile, the 6-foot-4 Atkinson frustrated the Wolfpack the

entire way by being quick enough to get his shot off the dribble or

strong enough to muscle around in the paint. He finished with a

career-high 28 points while the Wolfpack tried at least three

different defenders on him during the game.

”I’ll take a two-point loss here in Raleigh against a ranked

16th team in the nation any day,” Atkinson said. ”I told the team

in the locker room that we have a long season ahead. If we play

like this in the Big South (Conference), we will kill in the Big

South and beat every team by 30.”

UNC Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach, a former Wolfpack player,

wasn’t quite as chipper afterward.

”We just let this one get away,” he said.

Howell put the Wolfpack ahead for good at 70-69 when he

corralled a deflected pass and scored in the paint while drawing an

intentional foul.

He hit one free throw, then Wood followed with a straightaway

jumper on what amounted to a five-point possession that gave N.C.

State a four-point lead. Two possessions later, Wood answered a

3-pointer by Trent Meyer with one of his own, losing Keith Hornsby

around a screen on the right wing to make it 76-72 with 1:16


UNC Asheville got as close as 80-78 on a three-point play from

Hornsby (23 points) with 16.5 seconds left, but Howell made it a

two-possession game with his free throws and the Bulldogs managed a

meaningless putback just before the buzzer to end it.

Lorenzo Brown added 18 points while C.J. Leslie had 14 points

and 11 rebounds for N.C. State, which improved to 18-0 all-time

against UNC Asheville.