3:20 p.m., State's out: Miami has beaten N.C. State 81-71 to advance to the ACC championship.
After two games of brilliant basketball, the Wolfpack put on an exasperating performance Saturday. Richard Howell was not full strength after a thigh injury Friday, and spent part of Saturday's game on an exercise bike. And State, overall, seemed to be running in place in much of this one.
Miami was in command right from the beginning as the Pack was sluggish at the start. Howell and Lorenzo Brown (0 for 6 from the field) weren't their dominant serves, and State never had an answer for Miami's Durand Scott, who scored 32.
Scott Wood started on Scott and Scott just blew past him and shot over him. Wood rebounded later in the game with some magnificent shooting, but his 21 points weren't enough to lift State into contention.
C.J. Leslie gave Wolfpack fans another reason to grumble about his performance. He hit only 5 of 13 shots, many of them forced, and finished the game with ESPN announcers commenting on how he was groaning about calls.
The biggest difference in this game and the other two was State's defense. The Pack never looked quick and determined on the defensive end, and that's a shortcoming that will hurt it in NCAA play. When the Pack plays with tenacity on the defensive side, this is a team that's capable of landing in the Final Four. When it does ... well, it's a team that frustrates its fan base.
3:15 p.m., Scott out: Miami's Durand Scott has fouled out after scorching N.C. State for 32 points. But Miami is still ahead 79-71 after another Scott Wood three-pointer and only 1:26 left.
That last three-pointer was a beauty, falling away and hitting it right in front of the State bench.
3:03 p.m., Howell out: Richard Howell is on the N.C. State bench, riding an exercise bike to loosen up his sore thigh. Howell has six points and eight rebounds in this contest. You'll never hear Howell complain, but State has appeared sluggish without him full strength.
State has needed other players to ... as the shirt says ... rise to the occasion, but hasn't had enough of that. C.J. Leslie has made 4 of 10 shots and contributed two rebounds. Lorenzo Brown is 0 for 5 and has five turnovers.
Scott Wood has scored 15 points, but the man he guarded, Durand Scott, has blistered State for 32 points. T.J. Warren (13 points) and Rodney Purvis (four) have tried but haven't done enough to lift this veteran team.
2:59 p.m., Pack fading: N.C. State's Richard Howell was just called for an offensive foul, and this game is getting away from the Wolfpack. Miami is ahead 69-55 and playing with patience on offense to drain the clock. There are only five minutes left in this one, and State's running out of time.
2:49 p.m., Howell back: Richard Howell comes back into the game at 9:33 with the score 56-45.And it's now 58-45 after Durand Scott drove in and scored again - he has 29 points.
2:37 p.m, Pack back in it: N.C. State has cut Miami's lead to 48-39 and has some life now. State fans were in an uproar when Durand Scott (who else?) stepped in front of Lorenzo Brown and drew a foul. The ESPN announcers questioned whether Scott was outside the restricted area at the time.
Freshman rodney Purvis, who has had a rough tournament so far, is playing well for N.C. State. He just scored two baskets and Scott Wood tossed in a three-pointer - his third of the game - to cut Miami's lead to 50-43.
2:25 p.m.: N.C. State is showing more fire in the second half, and moving the ball much better on offense. The Wolfpack has cut it to 46-35 and is using some pressure defense to try to get its legs moving.
Durand Scott is just killing State on offense - he has 24 points already - but Richard Howell, T.J. Warren and others are giving the Pack a lift on offense.
Lorenzo Brown is really having a puzzling game. He is 0 for 5 from the floor, has five assists and three turnovers. He was one of the dominant players in the tournament on Thursday and Friday but has evaporated today.
N.C. State is 10 of 18 from the line for the game - that has really hurt State.
2:03 p.m.: As Mark Gottfried just told ESPN, this is not the N.C. State team we've seen all season. Miami is up 41-29 at the half and this could have been worse if not for a State run right at the end of the half.
That might carry over into the second half - you could see some tentativeness all of a sudden from Miami players, and some concern on the face of coach Jim Larranaga.
But this is a game where the Hurricanes are clearly in command. State has hit only 9 of 22 shots, and only 8 of 16 free throws. NCSU also has seven turnovers and other problems - Richard Howell is bothered a bit by that thigh injury, and C.J. Leslie has two fouls.
Durand Scott was brilliant in the first half for Miami, with 19 points on 7 of 11 shooting. He tortured Scott Wood to start the game, and State switched Lorenzo Brown to him, still without much success.
The question for State is, where's the passion? Where's the fire? Wolfpack fans have done their part, packing the Greensboro Coliseum with red-clad shirts. And State hasn't won this event since 1987 - there's no reason for the Pack to play this flaccid.
2:00: Suddenly, some hope for State. Scott Wood's two three-pointers and some aggressive defense by N.C. State has given the Pack a bit of life here right at the end of the first half..
1:55 p.m.: It's now 39-20 Miami and the Wolfpack is letting Durand Scott look like Kobe Bryant. Bryant - oops, Scott - has 19 points.
Scott Wood just hit a three-pointer for State, which the Pack needed, and added a free throw to make it 39-24.
1:45 p.m.: N.C. State is down 30-16 and State is in real trouble. Richard Howell has his right leg wrapped. He has three baskets, and six points, to go with seven rebounds. But Howell isn't getting a lot of help. C.J. Leslie is trying, but he's 2 for 6 and has two fouls. Lorenzo Brown has done almost nothing, missing all three of his shots and doing little on defense. Miami has refused to let State get out and run, so Brown isn't getting any easy assists.
Scott Wood is having an awful game. He simply can't stop Miami's Durand Scott, who already has 17 points. And Wood is only 0 for 2 from the field and has been one of many Wolfpack players just standing around on offense.
Miami leads this one 32-20 and the Pack just has no energy whatsoever in this game
1:28 p.m., more Pack problems: It's not getting much better for State on either side of the ball here.
Miami's Durand Scott has 11 points already, scoring on a driving layup, a three-pointer and then a short jumper to help Miami push ahead 14-5. That forced a Wolfpack timeout with 10:55 to play.
State just looks dead on offense - tons of standing around, careless passes. State is 2 of 10 from the field, 1 of 4 from the line and C.J. Leslie has two fouls. Any time State does show some energy on defense, Miami seems to have two defenders there.
1:15 p.m., brutal start: Just a brutal start for N.C. State. Miami is up 5-0, and there are all signs of problems showing for the Wolfpack.
State really looks sluggish on offense. The Wolfpack has missed all five of its shots and there's none of the crisp passing we saw from State in the first two games. There's a lot of standing around on offense, like State is waiting for someone to make something happen.
Perhaps even more concerning are the problems State is having on defense. Scott Wood is not a great defensive player - which is one reason he was overlooked on the All-ACC teams. He doesn't move well laterally and usually isn't a big help on the boards (just 2.9 rebounds per game).
Wood is having a hard time on defense, and so is State's C.J. Leslie. That's not a good sign against a rugged Miami team.
1:00 p.m.: Huge opportunity for N.C. State today. The Wolfpack hasn't won the ACC Tournament - which is the ACC champion - since 1987, when Vinny Del Negro led Jim Valvano's team to the title.
That's a long stretch without some hardware, the longest in Wolfpack history. N.C. State was the preseason team to beat in the ACC, but had a disappointing regular season to finish in fifth place.
In Greensboro, though, the Wolfpack has looked like the best team in the field. C.J. Leslie has been active and engaged, Richard Howell has been his usual warrior self and Lorenzo Brown, T.J. Warren and Scott Wood have been highly effective.
Miami was picked fifth in the ACC but roared to the regular-season title. A big reason was the play of guard Shane Larkin. Larkin is a 5-foot-11 guard who is super quick and knows how to get his points. When you watch him up close, he reminds you a bit of former Wake Forest star Chris Paul. Larkin isn't as creative with the ball as Paul was at the same stage, but he's still a lightning-fast leader on the court.
By the way, Pack senior Richard Howell suffered a nasty thigh bruise Friday, but he will play today.
Monday, January 28 2013 5:04 PM EST2013-01-28 22:04:58 GMT
Jeff Reeves, WNCN
Freshman T.J. Warren scored 21 points, and Richard Howell scored the go-ahead basket with 1:56 left to help No. 14 North Carolina State hold off Clemson 66-62 on Sunday night. Howell finished with 11 points
NC State got a huge ACC win, thanks in part to a super freshman.