Leslie, Pack welcome second chance
N.C. State and its star forward C.J. Leslie get another shot at living up to all the preseason hype beginning today.
The ACC Tournament provides such opportunities for an inconsistent preseason team favorite that finished fifth and a preseason choice and a preseason player of the year choice who dropped all the way to third team because of his up-and-down play.
Virginia Tech, the No. 12 seed, provides the first opportunity at redemption, even though the Hokies are also trying to salvage an end to a season that has been without many bright spots other than guard Erick Green, who leads the nation in scoring at 25.4 points per game and won the
in player of the year voting.
Leslie, who was brilliant in some games and didn’t appear to give full effort in others, admits that the Wolfpack did not play up to their full potential in winding up 22-9 and 11-7 in the conference.
“I think we shown in spurts how good we can be,” Leslie said. “I don’t know if we saw how good we can be for 40 minutes.”
As for his own season, Leslie is not looking in the past.
“I just need to come out here and pt everything behind me and play the way I know I can play,” Leslie said. “There’s no pressure. My confidence is good. I know if I’m playing good or not, I know I’m capable of playing well at any given time. Whatever happened before this, I’m not even thinking about it.”
Among the disappointing losses for State were those against Maryland and Miami at the buzzer, a two-point loss to 10th-seed Wake Forest and a regular-season ending loss at Florida State. State also was less than
impressive in close wins over Clemson, at Boston College and against the Hokies.
“There’s a lot games we felt we should have won and we lost of close ones,” State guard Scott Wood said. “We had a lot of high expectations but this gives us a chance to be called champions.”
One of their main goals today will be stopping Green, who has scored 20 or more points in all but three games this season. He scored 29 against State as the Wolfpack won in overtime on Feb. 16.
Lorenzo Brown, who is 6-5, will have the responsibility of guarding the 6-4 Green.
“We’re good friends,” Green said. “He’s a great player overall. He’s tall and athletic so that’s going to give me problems. He can stay in front of me. It’s going to be a great matchup.”
Brown is not in awe of the challenge.
“If you can’t guard a man one-on-one, you shouldn’t be out there,” Brown said.
But, coach Mark Gottfried stressed that stopping Green will not be one person’s responsibility.
“The team has to do a good job recognizing where he is, doing a good job on ball screens, stopping his penetration and making every shot difficult,” Gottfried said. “And when we played them, they had other guys step up and we can’t let that happen.”
To win the championship, State will have to become the first to do it by winning four games in four days.
Wood does not believe that fatigue will play a factor if the Wolfpack gets to the championship game.
“Everybody played three games a day in their AAU days and gone through two-a-day practices, so it’s not that big of a deal,” Wood said.
With basically a seven-player rotation, Gottfried has few options to cut playing tine of his main players.
“If we get a situation to rest players, we will,” Gottfried said. “But, I’m going to coach every game like it is going to be our last one.”