Talking points: Howell, Leslie lead Pack past Blue Devils
Posted January 12, 2013
Updated January 13, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — 1. Local old-timers often romanticize the on-court battles of yesteryear between NC State, North Carolina and Duke. What took place inside PNC Arena on Saturday afternoon must have taken them back to that time. NC State and Duke, a matchup of top ACC contenders, lived up to the hype as both squads put on an entertaining back-and-forth contest.
2. That being said, it was a game the Wolfpack needed to win and shouldn't be considered an upset. For starters, NC State had the home court advantage and Duke was missing Ryan Kelly due to a foot injury. Without Kelly, Duke was left with a matchup disadvantage dealing with Calvin Leslie and Richard Howell.
Going into the game, NC State lacked a performance that equaled the expectations foisted upon them during the preseason. Following losses to Oklahoma State and Michigan, players admitted to having their heads in their collective rear end and a breakthrough game had been slowly building since their trip to Madison Square Garden against Connecticut.
The Wolfpack haven't been perfect in their current 10-game win streak, especially when it comes to defense, but they have shown an incredible amount of focus during crunch time.
3. Duke dominated the glass early thanks to contributions from Amile Jefferson and Josh Hairston, out-rebounding NC State 14-4 and held a 22-15 advantage at halftime. The tide turned when Jefferson fouled out and Mason Plumlee failed to stay assertive under the rim despite only having one foul throughout the second half. Richard Howell finally started doing damage in the paint, grabbing 14 of his 18 rebounds in the final 20 minutes. NC State ended the game with superior 33-31 margin on the boards.
4. Speaking of Howell, the senior finished his afternoon 7-of-12 from the field and 16 points. Calvin Leslie had a game-high 25 points, while Scott Wood went 3-for-3 beyond the arc. Lorenzo Brown dished out all of NC State's 13 assists. Each of the Wolfpack's veteran players contributed through their strengths.
5. Along with rebounding, converting at the line had been a shaky proposition for NC State this season. The team made 20 of their 23 free throw attempts, ultimately keeping Duke at a distance down the stretch.
6. NC State's foul trouble in Cameron Indoor Stadium last season was a huge storyline coming out of the loss. Naturally, fans were keeping a keen eye on how the game would be called on Saturday. There were even ridiculous rumors that Karl Hess would make a WWE-style return to PNC Arena and work the game. Turns out Hess didn't show up (and likely won't at all this season) and calls were relatively even until the end.
Along with Jefferson, Quinn Cook and and Tyler Thornton fouled out for Duke. Earlier in the game, Thornton was part of a double-technical with NC State's Wood after they exchanged some trash talk and a sly elbow.
7. Rushing the court might be played out for some, but as the kids would said, "YOLO!" Especially for Will Privette, who became a viral sensation after he instructed NC State's student body president to push his wheelchair into the middle of the court celebration.
Privette said as his wheelchair flipped and lost his glasses before Calvin Leslie lifted him out of the madness. Dick Vitale was horrified by the scene unfolding on ESPN. Despite damage to his wheelchair, Privette said "it was all worth it."