Monday, January 16, 2012

N.C. State blowout was largely without Leslie

Whether it was the end of the first half of the Georgia Tech game, when C.J. Leslie was on the bench with foul trouble, or the end of the Stanford loss, when Leslie was in the locker room with cramping issues, N.C. State had not responded well to playing without its top scorer.

Yet, when Saturday's game against Wake Forest started, Leslie was on the bench — a measure of discipline by Gottfried for practice-related reasons — and N.C. State was … just fine.

Leslie checked in at 16:40, with N.C. State up 6-2, had a nice assist in transition to Scott Wood for a 3 at 11:46 and played 15 relatively uneventful minutes in the first half.

His replacement in the starting lineup, forward DeShawn Painter, had five points and seven boards and helped N.C. State take a 33-17 at the half of what would become a 76-40 blowout.

Painter started the second half and Leslie played briefly before tweaking his left ankle going for a rebound at 11:49. He winced in pain, went to the bench and his day was done. With a 54-23 lead, there was no need to bring Leslie back.

Painter finished with seven points and 12 boards in 28 minutes, matching Rich Howell for the team lead in that category.

Leslie's day consisted of 17 minutes, zero points, three misses shots, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block — not great, but not awful by any means.

"We were able to pick it up for him and that's all we can do," C.J. Williams said after the game.
And since N.C. State hadn't been able to pick up for Leslie, who has been dominant at times this season and consistently so for more stretches than at any point in his erratic freshman season, that was a good sign for State.

The concern is how Leslie, who had a tendency to check out and disengage last season, will react going forward because State definitely needs him.

Gottfried, who was happy that Painter made the most of the opportunity, was confident Saturday wouldn't knock Leslie off the All-ACC course he has been on this season.

"Calvin has been very good this year, I expect him to be completely fine," Gottfried said.

For the record, Leslie was held scoreless in the infamous loss at Clemson last season — the one he didn't start and openly pouted during when State coughed up a 19-point lead — and came back with 14 points against UNC and 18 against Virginia Tech.

And when Leslie was suspended after the Virginia Tech game, for a coach's decision, he came back with 19 against Wake, 18 against Clemson and 18 at Maryland.

-- J.P. Giglio