RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina State had made everything look easy in its first two games under coach Mark Gottfried. This time, his players proved they could win a tough one, too.
DeShawn Painter knocked down a straightaway jumper with 4.2 seconds left to help the Wolfpack beat Princeton 60-58 on Wednesday night, keeping Gottfried unbeaten here while giving N.C. State a needed early-season test.
Lorenzo Brown turned in an impressive performance for the Wolfpack (3-0), finishing with 16 points, eight assists, five rebounds and five steals despite missing the past two days of practice with a stomach bug. He also fed Painter near the top of the circle for the winning basket, though the Wolfpack had to sweat this one out until Ian Hummer's desperation heave from near halfcourt fell short as time expired.
N.C. State trailed by nine in the first half and 35-32 at the break, but rallied despite playing almost the entire game without junior outside shooter Scott Wood, who was lost to an ankle injury barely 2 minutes in.
"We're in the infant stages with our team and hopefully building something great," Gottfried said. "Sometimes you're going to have games like this where you have to dig down and overcome some obstacles."
N.C. State also played for the third straight time without sophomore forward C.J. Leslie and freshman forward Thomas de Thaey, with Leslie serving the last of a three-game suspension for receiving improper benefits while de Thaey is out indefinitely while the school reviews the Belgium native's eligibility from overseas.
Painter and Richard Howell had made up for their absences in the first two games, but Howell (10 points) had foul trouble and Painter (11) had a quiet night until hitting the winning shot.
"It was just a gutsy shot," Painter said. "Sometimes you are either going to win it, you're going to be a hero and take it, or if you miss your shot people are going to say you're a loser or mad at you. But I pride myself on guts and I have to thank God for giving me the opportunity to get that shot."
Alex Johnson, a graduate transfer who had struggled with his shot so far this season, appeared to have the Wolfpack poised to win when he hit a 3-pointer from the right corner for a 58-55 lead with 1:55 left. But Douglas Davis lost Brown on the right side and launched a 3 that swished through the net and tied the game with 20.6 seconds left.
Davis scored 21 points for the Tigers (0-2) and hit five 3-pointers. He had 13 points in the first half as Princeton shot 52 percent and hit 6 of 7 3-point tries before halftime.
But the Tigers cooled in the second half, both from the Wolfpack playing with more defensive intensity and from the Tigers missing some of the open looks they had knocked down early. Princeton missed 20 of 28 shots in the second half while the Wolfpack shot 52 percent after halftime.
N.C. State also took a 40-24 rebounding advantage, which led to a 15-5 edge in second-chance points.
"None of us were happy with the results," Princeton coach Mitch Henderson said. "And the things that we talked about coming in -- defense, rebounding -- we got hurt on at key points of the game."
The Wolfpack opened the season with relatively easy wins against UNC Asheville and Morehead State, but couldn't get out in transition nearly as effectively this time and ended up in a grind-it-out fight to the buzzer.
Losing Wood didn't help, either. He rolled his right ankle as he came down on a shot while being fouled, hitting the floor and immediately grabbing his ankle. He was helped off the court and put no weight on the leg on the way to the locker room at the 18:04 mark. He emerged just before the start of the second half, walking with crutches and wearing a protective boot on his right foot.
X-rays revealed no fracture, but Gottfried said Wood would be out "for a while."
The game also included Gottfried being whistled for his first technical foul with the Wolfpack with 6:13 left in the second half.
The game is part of the Legends Classic. N.C. State travels to East Rutherford, N.J., to face No. 18 Vanderbilt in the semifinals on Saturday.