Freshman C.J. Leslie had 19 points in his first game back from a suspension and North Carolina State routed Wake Forest 80-55 on Sunday.
Tracy Smith scored 20 points to lead the Wolfpack (13-11, 3-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) to their first win of the season on an opponent's regular home court. They never trailed and snapped a four-game losing streak with a convincing win in a matchup of the ACC's two worst teams.
Freshman Travis McKie had 15 points for the last-place Demon Deacons (8-17, 1-9). They turned it over 15 times - their fourth straight game with at least that many - and have lost four straight and 14 of 16.
Leslie was 7 of 13 from the field for the Wolfpack, who were coming off a disheartening 24-point loss to No. 5 Duke eight days earlier - a game Leslie missed while he served his suspension for violating an unspecified team rule.
N.C. State shot 55.9 percent (33 of 59) against a Wake Forest defense that allows its opponents to shoot nearly 45 percent, and the Wolfpack finally separated themselves with a 20-6 run early in the second half that put them up by double figures to stay. Leslie had consecutive fast-break buckets before Scott Wood capped the burst with a stickback that made it 59-41 with 11 minutes left.
Wake Forest didn't get closer than 13 the rest of the way, and Lorenzo Brown later put N.C. State up 20 for the first time when his layup with just over 4 minutes left made it 73-53.
For the Wolfpack, this was the kind of performance they needed after slipping all the way to 11th place in the league, winning in Winston-Salem for only the second time in coach Sidney Lowe's five seasons. After routing the Demon Deacons by 21 points last month in Raleigh, they took control seemingly from the opening tip and allowed it to slip away only briefly before reclaiming it.
N.C. State reeled off the game's first eight points, forcing Wake Forest to play catch-up. Seemingly every time the Demon Deacons got close, the Wolfpack simply pounded the ball inside to Leslie, who had 13 points at the break, or Smith, who had 10.
The first half came to a bizarre end: N.C. State was taking out the ball on the baseline with about 3.5 seconds left, but the clock started prematurely and then stopped with 0.9 seconds left, when it was inbounded to Brown, who missed a 3 from the corner.
Wake Forest's players rushed off the court while Lowe objected, and after a review of about 10 minutes, the officials placed 2.6 seconds on the clock and gave the ball to the Demon Deacons on the alternate possession. J.T. Terrell then missed a shot from midcourt at the horn.