A year after Stanford closed out a tight, 76-72 win against NC State with a 17-1 run, the Cardinal could not rally from another double-digit second-half deficit against the No. 25 Wolfpack, falling 88-79 at PNC Arena on Tuesday night.
Junior forward Dwight Powell’s third consecutive 20-point game keyed a Stanford comeback from down 17 with 9:09 remaining, but the Wolfpack (8-2, 0-0 ACC) didn’t let the Cardinal (7-4, 0-0 Pac-12) creep any closer than seven points behind in the final minutes.
“We grew a lot in a tough atmosphere,” said Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins. “This was a true road game against a strong opponent and we played well…I can’t fault our kids for the outcome. We were playing hard, getting after it. That’s all you can ask for.”
Stanford’s bench outscored NC State’s 33-8, but the Wolfpack had four starters above 15 points, including a team-leading 24 by junior guard Lorenzo Brown and a double-double (17 points, 12 rebounds) by senior forward Richard Howell. It was not the defensive performance that Stanford — one of the nation’s worst shooting teams — would have needed to knock off NC State, which led Division I with a 52.7 field-goal percentage coming into the showdown.
“We’ve got to come ready for a fight from the jump,” Powell said “We’ve got to work on rebounding and getting back on D quicker in transition, just be a tougher team.”
Powell (23 points) remained effective by staying mostly out of foul trouble — only picking up his fifth personal when the Cardinal was forced to foul late — and fellow junior Aaron Bright came up with a season-high 16 points off the bench. Bright’s 4-for-7 perimeter shooting was a step in the right direction for the guard, who has struggled from behind the arc this season after establishing himself as one of Stanford’s top outside shooters in 2011-12.
Yet the Wolfpack had 11 blocks and got to the line 27 times, sinking 19 free throws to the Cardinal’s four and never trailing.
“You have to take it harder to the basket, and show a little more wisdom in some decisions,” Dawkins said. “We didn’t get to the foul line enough tonight because we didn’t do those things.”
It was the first road game of the season for the Cardinal, which has played four neutral-site contests in the early going. Stanford has just two more nonconference games scheduled, starting with its trip to Northwestern this Friday at 6 p.m. PST.