NEW YORK -- Quick thoughts from North Carolina State's 69-65 victory over Connecticut in Tuesday's second game of the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden:
What it means: NC State picked up its best win of the season, and perhaps quieted its critics some, in sending UConn to its second loss.
The Wolfpack (5-2), ranked No. 6 to start the season and picked to win the ACC, had lost two of their previous three -- to Oklahoma State (by 20) in the final of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, and at No. 3 Michigan (by seven).
UConn (6-2) is playing better than expected and battled to the very end in this game. The Huskies, despite not being eligible for the postseason, are going to give a lot of teams trouble.
The turning point: UConn came out hot, thanks to Shabazz Napier, who scored the team’s first 10 points. The Huskies led by 11, 20-9, with eight minutes and change gone by. But NC State responded with an 8-0 run from that point. The Wolfpack led 32-31 at halftime, thanks to Lorenzo Brown’s floater at the first-half buzzer.
The game remained tight in the second half. With the score tied at 53 and less than six minutes left, NC State went on a 6-0 spurt, capped by a C.J. Leslie slam dunk on the break. UConn stayed within striking distance -- Ryan Boatright’s 3-pointer with just less than two minutes remaining cut it to 61-58. But the Huskies couldn’t get stops when they needed them down the stretch.
Player of the game: UConn had no answer for NC State’s twin towers, Leslie and Richard Howell.
Howell scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half and had 10 rebounds -- seven of them on the offensive glass. Leslie had 16 points and 13 boards. Those two are a handful.
Napier finished with a game-high 19 for UConn but scored only four points in the second half. Boatright added 18 points.
Key stat: NC State had 11 offensive rebounds in the second half and scored 16 second-chance points with them. That was the difference in the game.
What’s next: NC State will host Cleveland State on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET -- a game that will be played at the old Reynolds Coliseum, as opposed to PNC Arena. UConn hosts Harvard on Friday night at 7 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion.