Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Behind Brown, NC State avoids deja vu
By Robbi Pickeral
RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina State point guard Lorenzo Brown admits there may have been a flashback or two, with about 5 1/2 minutes left Tuesday night, when Stanford cut the Wolfpack’s once-17-point lead to seven.
“In the back of my mind, I was thinking, ‘I don’t want this to happen again. I don’t want to lose to them two years in a row,’” he said.
So the junior helped make sure they didn’t. Brown scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half at PNC Arena -- including four points during the closeout stretch -- to lead the Wolfpack to its fourth consecutive win (88-79), and perhaps help dull the memories of State’s double-digit West Coast meltdown a year ago.
It was, by far, Brown’s most aggressive game of the year -- a good sign for a 25th-ranked team that finally seems to be putting its talented pieces together after it started the season in the top 10, but slid down the rankings after losses to Oklahoma State and at Michigan.
“I just took it upon myself,” said Brown, who shot 9-for-15, and also had 5 assists, 4 turnovers and a steal. “I know our team needed some quick buckets. They [the Cardinal] were coming down and shooting all types of 3s. So I took it upon myself to make good shots.”
Indeed, State led by as much as 69-52 with 9:19 left, on a jumper from Brown. But the Cardinal (which got 23 points from forward Dwight Powell) countered with a 12-2 run to cut it to 71-64 -- just enough to harken back to last season, when Stanford used a late 16-1 run to overtake the Wolfpack on the West Coast.
This time around, however, NCSU senior big man Richard Howell countered with a layup, followed by a jumper from forward C.J. Leslie and another layup by Brown.
That, along with sharpshooter Scott Wood’s bevy of lane-opening 3-pointers in the first half, was an example of NC State’s veterans coming together to do what they do best, all at the right time.
And the same time.
“They’ve been in games like this,” Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried of his lineup, which returns four starters from last March’s Sweet 16 team. “Throughout their careers, they’ve been in some wars like this. And we expect them to be good in wars like this.”
And now they have been, twice in the past four games with victories against two power-conference opponents in Connecticut (69-65) and Stanford.
“I’m excited,” Gottfried said. “I think it is another win against a team that is going to win a lot of games this year.”
Plus it’s a confidence boost for Brown, who didn’t even start playing point guard full time until last season. (Not that you’d know it by the way he used his size advantage, length and court vision.)
“He reminds me of a guy who used to play back in my time … Sleepy Floyd,” said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, whose team’s winning streak was snapped at three. “ … He’s a terrific player. He has great size, he can really shoot the basketball, he can play the 1, and he creates all sorts of problems for you because he can post you up, because he’s a 6-5 point guard. He can shoot overtop of smaller guards. He handles the ball well to get to places on the floor that are difficult.
“He’s a very talented guard, and based on what I’ve seen today, he’s one of the best guards in the country.”
Brown -- who was also 7-for-8 with 16 points against Norfolk State last Saturday -- said his squad is also still capable of being one of the best teams in the country, if it can continue to build off wins like Tuesday and learn from the memories of bad games in the past.
“Once Scott’s hitting 3s like that, it opens it up for everybody else,” Brown said. “Then you’ve got Rodney [Purvis], who’s faster than anybody I’ve seen. You can’t do much about about C.J. and Richard, so we can be ‘dangerous’ -- that’s the right word.”