St. Bonaventure-NC State Preview
By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
(AP) -- North Carolina State needed an amazing last-second layup by C.J. Leslie to defeat St. Bonaventure last season.
The task should be easier for the No. 25 Wolfpack this time around since Saturday's rematch is in Raleigh and the Bonnies have lost graduated star forward Andrew Nicholson to the NBA.
Both teams reached the NCAA tournament a season ago, and North Carolina State pulled out a 67-65 win over St. Bonaventure in Rochester, N.Y., last Dec. 20.
Leslie hauled in a full-court pass in traffic and scored with 0.8 seconds left to break the game's ninth and final tie. Neither team led by more than three points over the final 8:05.
The Wolfpack (8-2) return four starters from that squad and added star freshman Rodney Purvis while Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Nicholson, a first-round pick by the Orlando Magic, is gone for the Bonnies (7-3).
N.C. State is 5-0 at home and leads the nation in field-goal percentage at 53.0. St. Bonaventure has dropped three straight on the road.
"My thing is let's go and test ourselves," Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said. "That's why our guys came to Bonaventure. N.C. State is a nationally ranked team. Let's see where we stand."
The Wolfpack won their fourth straight Tuesday, 88-79 over Stanford, to reach the midpoint of this six-game homestand. Lorenzo Brown scored 18 of his season-high 24 points after halftime to give N.C. State some breathing room.
"I just took it upon myself," Brown said. "I know our team needed some quick buckets. ... So I took it upon myself to make good shots."
Brown led a second-half surge as the Wolfpack scored on six straight and eight of nine possessions to take a 17-point lead. The junior guard had not scored more than 18 all season.
"The difference I think for him tonight as opposed to some early games, when he got in the paint and penetrated, he was on balance, he was under control, he came out of there with good shots," coach Mark Gottfried said. "I thought early in the year he turned some of those into tough shots, so he certainly is getting better there, too."
Richard Howell finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds for his fourth straight double-double, and Scott Wood also added 17 points.
"Our leaders - all our leaders - stepped up and played good today," said Leslie, who scored 16.
St. Bonaventure has limited three of its last four opponents to less than 40 percent shooting. The Bonnies held The Citadel to 37.5 percent in Wednesday's 97-57 rout and finished with a 37-27 edge on the glass.
"We defended really well, we rebounded, especially in the second half, we were plus-12 in the second half," Schmidt said.
Seniors Chris Johnson and Demitrius Conger are being counted on to shoulder more of the scoring load this season, combining to average 28.5 points. No Bonnies player has scored more than 20 in a game, but seven have reached double digits at least once.
The only previous meeting between these teams before last season was when Bob Lanier led the Bonnies to an 80-68 victory in the 1970 NCAA tournament.
Updated December 21, 2012