GAME NOTES: The NC State Wolfpack attempt to close out the regular season on a high note, as they travel to Tallahassee for an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown with the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday afternoon.
While its preseason dream of capturing the ACC regular-season title may be shattered, NC State has climbed back on to the national radar after falling from the spotlight with losses in five of seven bouts earlier in the season. The Wolfpack have ripped off wins in three straight and six of the last seven to climb to 22-8 overall and 11-6 in the league, with their most recent triumph coming against Wake Forest on Wednesday, 81-60.
After being ranked in the Top-25 in the preseason poll, FSU's season has certainly not panned out the way it had hoped, as it currently sits at 16-14 overall and 8-9 in ACC play. The Seminoles have started to play better down the stretch however with wins in two of their last three, including a thrilling 53-51 triumph over Virginia at home on Thursday.
NC State made easy work of FSU in the first meeting this season, winning 84-66 on Feb. 19 in Raleigh, to improve its standing in the all-time series to 28-21.
The Wolfpack jumped out to a 15-point halftime lead in their latest outing earlier in the week, and their advantage never dipped below double-digits. They shot 48.4 percent from the field, paced by a 19-point, 10-rebound effort by C.J. Leslie for his ninth double-double of the season. T.J. Warren added 15 points, Rodney Purvis netted 14 points, and Lorenzo Brown rounded out the balanced effort with 11 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Scoring points has rarely been an issue for NC State, which boasts one of the most potent offensive attacks in the nation in scoring 78.1 ppg on a lofty 49.5 percent from the field, but unfortunately its lackluster scoring defense (70.4 ppg) has prevent it from joining the nation's elite. Leading the team is Leslie (15.2 ppg) and Richard Howell (12.8 ppg), who both shoot greater than 53 percent from the floor, and Howell's 10.7 rpg are tops in the ACC. Lorenzo Brown (12.4 ppg, 7.0 apg, 2.0 spg) is arguably the ACC's best floor general, Warren brings 12.3 ppg to the table, and Scott Wood (11.9 ppg) is deadly from 3-point range (83-of-195, .426).
With its latest game tied in the waning seconds, Florida State received a familiar call from Michael Snaer, who delivered the game-winning bucket with four seconds left to give his team the home win. It's hard to imagine where the Seminoles would be this season without Snaer, who finished with 14 points, as he has drained four game-winning field goals this year. Okaro White was also strong in the victory, tallying 17 points, six rebounds, two blocks and two steals. FSU's struggles have been well-documented at both ends of the floor this season, as it ranks in the lower-half of the ACC in both scoring offense (66.9 ppg) and scoring defense (68.0 ppg). Snaer pours in 14.4 ppg while hitting 38 percent of his 3-pointer attempts and 80.9 percent of his foul shots. White has been a solid presence in the paint with 12.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg and more than a block and a steal per contest.
FSU has been playing better at home of late, and it proved on Thursday that it certainly has some fight left, but NC State is beginning to play at an elite level again and should be able to muster up enough points to claim a solid road victory.
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