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."