Lewis rescues State from itself
Posted January 26
Updated January 27
NC State's season was on the verge of possibly spiraling out of control Sunday afternoon at PNC Arena. Trailing by 11 points early in the second half of this late January game against offensively-challenged yet surprisingly efficient Georgia Tech the Wolfpack were desperately in need of a spark. And, it came from the most unlikely of sources.
Relegated to a reserve role behind freshman point guard Anthony Barber, Lewis' key minutes -- not to mention moments -- were few and far between this season. In fact Lewis, an expected starter coming into his sophomore year, had played less than 10 minutes in half of State's games since the start of December. It's the reality a player of Lewis' ability has to deal with; there always seems to be someone coming in who appears quicker, stronger and more dynamic.
Still, you have to be ready when your number is called.
Coming out of the first media time out with just over four minutes gone in the second half and the Wolfpack trailing by 11, Lewis replaced Barber and needed just over a minute to change the course of the game, and possibly the season for his team. It had been more than a month since Lewis had made a 3-point basket, heck he'd only made three of 25 attempts all year long. But, with his team needing a spark, Lewis confidently stepped into a long-range shot and ignited the home crowd for the first time since the very early stages of the game.
Lewis' fourth 3-pointer of the year was followed 39 seconds later with his 5th and the comeback was officially underway. Lewis would score 10 points, all coming in the second half and it was the second-year guard from Statesville, NC in charge of the Wolfpack through the key moments of the game including all five in the overtime.
It takes character and a little bit of chutzpah to accept the responsibility of taking big shots when your team is struggling. Even more so when you've been lost in a bit of an offensive funk yourself, but one of the best traits Lewis possesses is a total lack of fear and he knew he'd be ready when his number was called. "I always tried to stay positive, I never lost confidence and I continued to work hard in practice", Lewis said after coaxing the Pack to their second straight come-from-behind victory. "It doesn't matter what happens, I always feel like I can help my team get a W."
On a Sunday afternoon, with Georgia Tech -- a team that frankly, isn't as good as the Wolfpack should be -- poised to run away from NC State, dealing the Pack a loss that would be difficult to overcome in the long run, Lewis delivered for his team. With five of their next seven games away from home, a loss to the Yellow Jackets would have likely meant the beginning of the end of State's NCAA chances. But, Lewis refused to let his team begin the slide into also-ran status.
Maybe it's this time of the year that inspires Lewis to playing his best. It was last year, the week before the Super Bowl, when Lewis replaced an injured Lorenzo Brown at Virginia and went off on a streak of his best basketball of his freshman season. While State didn't beat UVA that night, nor did they defeat Miami or Duke, the top two teams in the league, in the next two games, Lewis was probably their best player in that stretch. In those two losses, Lewis proved that, at the very least, he could be a part of the solution to whatever problems the Wolfpack encountered. And, even though Lewis found himself wanting for playing time, he never stopped believing that he would have the chance to prove it all over again.
"Everything happens for a reason. You just have to be ready."
Not to mention willing and able.