Pack Upsets No. 7 Wake Forest, 82-76
BY TIM PEELER
RALEIGH, N.C. This time, the second-half lead was big enough. And, even though No. 7 Wake Forest cut a 20-point second-half deficit down to two points in the final minute, NC State’s players weren’t all that concerned about the outcome of Wednesday night’s game at the RBC Center.
“I knew we were going to pull this one out,” said Wolfpack junior Brandon Costner. “I wasn’t worried.”
Costner was a big reason the Wolfpack (13-9 overall, 3-6 ACC) was in position for the 82-76 upset. During one two-minute stretch of the second half, the junior forward scored 11 points, pushing State’s lead up to 62-42.
He had 17 of his game-high 23 points in the second half.
“It felt like we were in need of a spark to get our momentum back,” Costner said.
Costner, who also added nine rebounds, was one of five Wolfpack players in double figures.
“This was a good effort tonight, and you don’t want to waste good efforts,” Costner said. “I feel like we gave great effort on Sunday and we deserved to win, but we kind of gave it away.
“Tonight, we needed to refocus and we got the job done.”
Senior Courtney Fells had 10 of his 12 points in the first half, including back-to-back 3-pointers that helped erase a seven-point Wake Forest lead.
Farnold Degand, who didn’t play at all in Sunday’s overtime loss at Virginia Tech, returned to action to score a season high 14 points. Sophomore Tracy Smith had 12 and freshman C.J. Williams added 10.
Costner stole the show for a while, but it was the three-guard combination of Degand, Javi Gonzalez and Fells that help stave off the Deacon comeback. Even so, James Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 59.8 seconds to play to cut the Wolfpack lead to 78-76.
But Gonzalez iced the victory with two free throws with 17 seconds to play.
“At first I was a little worried, but at the end of the day, all we are trying to do is win,” said Degand. “It doesn’t matter if we win by 20 or by one.
“I wasn’t really worried. I knew we had a big lead and we just had to make plays.”
Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe said there were no lingering effects from the disappointing 91-87 loss at Blacksburg, despite the loss of an 18-point second-half lead.
“We have been playing well, and I think our guys know that,” Lowe said. “You might think they would be down after what happened on Sunday, but they weren’t.”
The only real question mark going into the game was whether senior Ben McCauley, who was suffering from a stomach bug, would be able to play. He contributed five points and five rebounds in 25 minutes of action.
Smith, the sophomore from Durham, stepped in to contribute a career-high 10 offensive rebounds, and a total of 12 for the game.
The Wolfpack allowed only two Demon Deacon players to hit double-figures, James Johnson with 18 and Jeff Teague with 11. Fells shadowed Teague all night long in a variety of defenses, including a box-and-one and a triangle-and-two that limited the sophomore guard to just three field goal attempts on the night.
“I thought switching defenses was good for us tonight,” said Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe said. “It generated a lot of energy.”
Demon Deacon coach Dino Gaudio was dismayed that the Deacons (18-4, 5-4) gave up 17 offensive rebounds and 17 turnovers.
“That’s 34 possessions they shouldn’t have had,” Gaudio said. “That was the ball game right there. You can’t win if you give the other team 34 extra possessions like that.”
In the first half, the Wolfpack twice led by as many as nine points, after falling behind 13-6 in the first five minutes.
Fells was the key to the comeback, hitting a pair of falling-away 3-pointers. Degand followed with two more from beyond the arc, and the Deacons went more than four minutes without a field goal as the Pack built a 32-23 advantage.
The Deacons scored three consecutive baskets to cut the lead to three points, but the Wolfpack answered with three of its own, a left-handed layup by Costner, a layup Williams and a pull-up jumper at the free-throw line by Costner.
A steal and layup by Williams gave the Wolfpack a 42-34 advantage at intermission.
Lowe and his team take to the road on Saturday to face Georgia Tech in Atlanta, a 1:30 p.m. televised contest.
You may contact Tim Peeler at email@example.com.