by Neil Morris
The N.C. State men’s basketball team stopped playing home games in Reynolds in 1999. Nowadays, Historic Reynolds Coliseum™ hosts an annual “heritage” game each December, and this year’s edition took place Saturday against the Cleveland State Vikings, a 20-win and NIT team from last season that entered the game against the No. 25 Wolfpack with a 6-2 record. However, the Wolfpack rode some of that old Reynolds magic, along with a raucous crowd of 7.234, to an 80-63 win over the Vikings.
Five Wolfpack players scored in double-digits, led by C.J. Leslie’s 19 points and Richard Howell’s 17 points and 10 rebounds, the senior forward’s fourth double-double this season. Freshmen Rodney Purvis got the start over fellow frosh T.J. Warren, and Purvis obliged with 11 points while Warren chipped in 16 off the bench, including going 2-2 from three-point range.
The Vikings led early, and the game was tied 13-13 five minutes into the contest. However, a dunk by Leslie gave the Wolfpack the lead for good, and the margin that didn’t fall below double-digits after Scott Wood netted his only points of the game with seven minutes left in the first half.
By garbage time, even freshman marksman Chase "The Shooting" Cannon notched the first points of his college career with a last-minute 3-pointer. For more on the Morehead City native, enjoy this YouTube compilation of his long-shooting exploits filmed during his senior season of prep ball with the Miller Mavericks in Charlottesville, Va.
It was a comfortable win for N.C. State (6-2) coming off Tuesday’s big victory over Connecticut in the Jimmy V Classic and kicking off a stretch of six consecutive home games during the month of December. Perhaps this run of games will also quell the choppy waters that have rocked the Wolfpack’s early season, including some internal “bickering” that Howell obliquely referenced during his postgame press conference.
Today’s game also closes another chapter in the history of Reynolds Coliseum, which Jay Bilas and Hubert Davis told ESPN.com last year was the toughest arena they played during their respective college careers. Interestingly, both ex-players referenced the deep end zone seating as part of Reynolds’ intimidating mystique. Although Saturday’s game against Cleveland State was billed as a sell-out, with walk-ups hoping to score a last-minute ticket being turned away at the door, the sections comprising those balcony-level end zone seats were empty.
A representative for N.C. State’s Sports Information Office said that those seats are no longer sold for men or women’s basketball games due to line-of-sight obstruction caused by the courtside bleachers situated behind each baseline. However, those bleachers do not obscure the view for fans sitting in the upper half of those end zones seats, which could have accommodated at least another 1,000-1,500 fans for Saturday’s game.
After a week of final exams, the Wolfpack returns to action—and PNC Arena—next Saturday, Dec. 15 against Norfolk State.