by Mike Potter
RBC CENTER/RALEIGH N.C. State faces its first big-time opponent at home this season, and there are some very familiar faces on the other bench.
Bad news for the Wolfpack is the continuing absence of its dominant 6-8 senior center Tracy Smith, who despite being having a medical release will miss his eighth straight game following arthroscopic knee surgery.
It turns out to be not a good day for the home team, which is as cold as the weather outside from the floor and drops a 72-62 loss.
Arizona takes a 15-14 lead on a 2-pointer from Kevin Parrom with 13:12 left in the second half and never again trails, but it takes the Wildcats a while to really put the game away.
The lead is only 36-32 at halftime, as the Wolfpack gets 14 points from freshman Lorenzo Brown to stay competitive.
But in the second half Brown’s offense disappears, and his only teammate who seems to be able to do much of anything offensively is Scott Wood.
The Wolfpack gets to within two at 52-50 on a Wood jumper with 10:01 to play, but the Wildcats score the next 10 points to get a solid working margin.
State never again gets closer than 68-61, that on an old-fashioned three-point play from Richard Howell with 1:56 to go.
Derrick Williams puts on a show for Arizona, pouring in 22 points including 10-for-11 from the charity stripe. Parrom adds 11 points and Jesse Perry 10 for the Wildcats.
Wood leads the Wolfpack with 16 points including 4-for-7 from 3-point range, but Brown stalls at 14 while Howell finishes with 12. C.J. Leslie goes 1-for-14 from the floor, but grabs 11 rebounds and blocks three shots.
Arizona shoots 44.9 percent to the Wolfpack’s icy 31.8. State grabs 45 rebounds to the visitors’ 31, but turns the ball over 14 times to Arizona’s 10.
They said it …
NCSU coach Sidney Lowe: “I thought out turnovers were a major factor. They just came at the wrong time throughout the game, and we took some really bad shots and made some really poor decisions. (Arizona’s 10-0 run) was at a critical stage for us. We didn’t show composure and we didn’t show growth. We got impatient and allowed their defense to impose on us and dictate our offense, instead of taking charge and playing our game. We had some pinpoint looks and couldn’t score. Right now we don’t have a go-to guy who can get it done for us.”
Sean Miller: “It’s good anytime you come on the road and have a chance to win, especially in a conference that is as respected as the ACC. Here in the Triangle on Tobacco Road, there are a lot of unsuccessful trips made here. So for us to fly across the country right before Christmas and have the wherewithal to play well and leave with a road win, it’s a big one for us.”
Wood: “I think the main thing we did was turn the ball over and took bad shots, which is basically the same thing as a turnover. Like Coach said, at times our offense kind of hurt our defense. Defensively and rebounding the ball — except for about three minutes there where they got a couple offensive rebounds — we did pretty well. We’ve just got to take care of the ball a little bit better and pick some things up on offense.”
What does it all mean?
That the Wolfpack continues to struggle in big games without Smith in the lineup, and that Arizona is starting to look like an NCAA Tournament team.
Stars of the game
1. Derrick Williams.
Play of the game
Perry’s follow shot with 7:02 left to give Arizona its biggest lead at 62-50.
Arizona leads 2-0.
NCSU: Lost 1.
UA: Won 2.
NCSU vs. Delaware State, Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Arizona vs. Robert Morris, Wednesday, 8:30 p.m.