by Bob Geary
1) Tracy Smith, 23 points, 11 rebounds.
2) C.J. Williams, 16 points, 7 rebounds, excellent defense and offensive floor game.
3) C. J. Leslie, 19 points, 6 rebounds, and zero turnovers in an all-around solid performance.
Stats: State shot 34-66 from the floor, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range (three 3's by Scott Wood), and out-rebounded Wake 47-22. Assists were 19-8 for State (Ryan Harrow had six assists). Official stat sheet here.
Sidney Lowe: Hard for State's coach to apply deep analysis to a blowout win. "Obviously, I thought we played well today. Our defense was excellent at times." He said Javi Gonzalez set a tone of physical toughness and C.J. Williams "was absolutely tremendous." And yes, Tracy Smith is the key: "We did, definitely, want to play off of him." Which they did.
Jeff Bzdelik: The angry Wake Forest coach ridiculed his inside players, calling them too soft for a man's game. "If you don't defend and you don't rebound, you don't win. It's as simple as that."
With Tracy Smith back in the lineup, the Wolfpack offense has a go-to presence it's been missing since he went down with knee problems just two games into the season. Wake Forest rates as the ACC's worst team in pre-season; the one question mark for the Pack in its ACC opener — at home — would seem to be whether its defense is good enough to prevent a bad team from getting open looks and staging an upset.
At the first timeout, 1:14 into the game, it's 6-0 State, with three easy inside baskets by C. J. Leslie (four points) and Smith. In the early going, Wake Forest is making shots, but State's defense is pretty solid — the Deacons are working for what they get. Meanwhile, Smith has gone to work. Wake's 7-foot freshman center, Carson DeRosiers, is trying, but Smith's got too much power and to many moves for DeRosiers to stop him. After the 11:10 timeout, Richard Howell makes his first appearance and is effective as well, scoring, rebounding and combining with DeShawn Painter and C.J. Williams off the bench to continue the defensive pressure.
Wake's guards, C.J. Harris and Gary Clark, apply pressure in turn and for a while the Deacs rally, cutting a seven-point margin to one at 28-27 with about six minutes left in the half. By after that, State's Ryan Harrow, Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Williams, who's come in for Scott Wood, turn the heat up the other way. A 12-3 run at the end of the half puts State up 40-30 at the intermission. Wake is playing hard and giving State some trouble with a matchup zone. But State's responded well and playing physical basketball too. State is dominating the boards — a 26-12 edge at the half, with eight State players having multiple rebounds (!); Smith, with 10 points, and Leslie, with nine, are State's leading scorers. For a third star of the half, consider C. J. Williams (just two points, but three rebounds and lots of hustle in just six minutes) or Richard Howell (four points, four rebounds in only five minutes).
The second half opens with a 6-0 Wake Forest run, Ari Stewart getting the final two from the line after a Scott Wood foul. Wood leaves with three, replaced by Williams, and from there — well, someone said after the game that State scored on 23 of 27 possessions at one stage. Put it this way, Smith went off, Williams had his best game ever, Leslie looked good, Lorenzo Brown was effective driving and, while he missed most of his shots, he managed to get them on the rim while drawing multiple defenders, which paid big dividends for States' bigs.
I'm reading from the stat sheet: State 47 total rebounds (including 20 offensive boards) to 22 total for Wake. Smith: 23 points, 11 rebounds, including 5 offensive. Williams — in 24 minutes — erupted for 16 points, seven rebounds, with three assists and just one turnover, which came on a sloppy play when the game was in the bag. At the point, Javi Gonazlez played well and Ryan Harrow did too, and the pair stood off Wake's C.J. Harris, a tough kid who was pretty much the whole Wake story for most of the afternoon.
A couple of highlight reel plays: Javi, on a pick-and-roll, puts up a perfect pass in the lane for Leslie, who sees his shot rim out but recovers in a flash to step in front of an amazed Wake defender, go up and grab the rebound in the time it took the defender — I think it was Melvin Tabb, but I may be wrong — to reach for the ball and get nothing but Leslie's back instead. Result, two Leslie free throws and a 49-36 lead. (Note: It was Tabb, according to the stat sheet.)
Another: Set play, ball goes to Brown in the left corner, he moves right and looks at Smith on low block; defense reacts, with Smith's defender bodying up on him and the weakside inside defender moving into the lane. Oops. That's Leslie's defender. Leslie comes hard from the right wing, takes the alley-oop from Brown and dunks it.
One more: On a Wood breakaway, he leaves a behind-the-back bounce pass for Williams, who takes it on the dead run and rises for a tomahawk dunk at full speed. That made the score 90-62 with 2:03 left. The under 4:00 timeout had yet to come, so Wake called a timeout while 16,500 State fans went nuts.
For some reason, our good friend Barry Jacobs was not ready to concede the ACC title to State on the basis of this impressive victory. Couldn't understand why — something about Duke?