N. C. State offset a woeful rebounding effort with excellent shooting and ball security to cruise past pesky Western Michigan in front of 12,576 fans Saturday at the PNC Arena. The nation's leading team in field goal percentage shot 54.5% and coughed up the ball a season-low eight times en route to an 84-68 win. The Pack victory came despite allowing 22 offensive rebounds and losing the overall rebounding margin 42-32.
The Broncos (8-5) had plenty of chances to rebound their misses, as they shot just 35.8% from the field overall and 25% from beyond the bonusphere. The Pack (10-2), winners of six straight for the first time in the Mark Gottfried era, helped their field goal defense by rejecting six shots, including two from noted shot botherer Scott Wood, who is tied with Calvin Leslie for the team lead in blocks with 13 on the season. Wood and Leslie were among five Wolfpack in double figures. Leslie led the way with 19 points and hit an impressive nine of 11 attempts at the charity stripe. Wood struggled from deep (1-for-5) but still managed 11 points.
Richard Howell, who made all eight of his field goal attempts and finished with 18 points and nine rebounds, earned praise from veteran Broncos' coach Steve Hawkins, who said he would take Howell for his team over any player he has seen this season. Unfortunately, Howell was disqualified yet again, but fortunately the fifth foul came well after Howell and crew had put the game out of reach.
Scoring machine T. J. Warren contributed 15 points off the bench on 7-for-9 shooting, and Lorenzo "LoZo" "Zon" Brown knocked down a pair of triples on his way to a 10-point, four-steal, three-assist afternoon. For the game, the Wolfpack had more steals (10) than turnovers (eight) and posted a 17-to-8 assist-to-turnover ratio as a team. Even with an at times lackluster defensive effort and a troubling rebounding disadvantage, they will win a lot of games this winter with that ratio. The Broncos managed just 10 assists, and the Pack is 6-0 when opponents record 10 or fewer assists. Additionally, State has outshot its opponent for 8 consecutive games.
Up next for the Pack is the last pre-conference tune up against UNC-Greensboro at 5 p.m. on New Year's Eve, which, like today's game, will be broadcast on the U. The ACC slate starts with a trip to Boston College on January 5th.