North Carolina State entered the NCAA tournament without a victory over a ranked opponent this season. But the Wolfpack picked a good time to finally get over that hump Friday.
Behind a dominant inside attack, No. 11 seed North Carolina State upset No. 6 seed San Diego State, 79-65, on Friday afternoon in a round-of-64 game, becoming the first ACC team to advance in this year’s tournament after being the last team announced in the field on Selection Sunday. It was the Wolfpack’s largest margin of victory in an NCAA tournament game since 1991.
North Carolina State fed junior forward Richard Howell early and often in the post, and he scored 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting. It was just the second time ever Howell has finished with more than 20 points.
Guard Lorenzo Brown added 17 points, nine rebounds and nine assists while forward C.J. Leslie chipped in 15 points. More importantly, both seemed to get a timely basket every time the Aztecs looked to be mounting a charge.
The Wolfpack with face either Georgetown or Belmont on Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.
San Diego State guard Jamaal Franklin scored a game-high 23 points and Chase Tapley had 19, but the Aztecs couldn’t keep up with all the interior production North Carolina State received throughout the afternoon. The Wolfpack finished the game shooting better than 57 percent, which offset San Diego State’s eight three-pointers.
After entering halftime with a four-point lead, the Wolfpack widened the gap early in the second half when forward Scott Wood caught fire. He scored eight straight North Carolina State points as part of an 8-2 surge that gave the Wolfpack a 43-36 lead heading into the first media timeout after halftime.
San Diego State closed to within three after Howell picked up his fourth foul with ten minutes remaining, but North Carolina State didn’t seem to miss a beat with center DeShawn Painter in the game and the Wolfpack extended their lead down the stretch.
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