The first half was not a good one for N.C State’s D.J. Burns.
The second half?
Very good. Huge.
The big center, a load around the basket, scored 23 of his 31 points in the second half as the Wolfpack came away with a 79-77 victory over Wake Forest at Lawrence Joel Coliseum.
Burns missed some good shots and bad in the first half. But his back-to-the basket moves were nearly unstoppable in the second half as he scored on a variety of short hooks.
The Pack (17-5, 7-4 ACC) managed to win a tough road game with Terquavion Smith missing much of the game with foul trouble. But Jarkel Joiner had 17 points and everyone contributed.
Smith, who had 16 points, returned to the game in the final minutes to hit a short jumper with 38 seconds left for a 77-74 lead.
Burns, who missed seven of 11 shots in the first half, finished 14-of-26 from the field and had nine rebounds.
Burns missed some free throws, going 3-for-8 at the line, But he hit two free throws with 1:22 remaining to give the Pack the lead for keeps.
The Deacons led 37-31 at halftime after Joiner knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the Pack, Wake coach Steve Forbes firing a fist in disgust after the shot fell.
Wake Forest pushed the lead to 10 early in the second half and maintained it, even as the Pack made a few mini-spurts.
Smith was called for his fourth foul with 9:18 left in the second half, after a slight slap in the lane, taking seat. But Burns, erratic offensively in the first half, began muscling in and converting with strong moves in the post as the Pack clawed back in it.
A 3-pointer by Joiner with 6:32 left in the second half pulled the Pack into a 62-62 tie. After forcing a shot-clock violation, a hook shot by Burns with 5:04 left gave the Wolfpack the lead.
It became a duel of 3’s — LJ Thomas for the Pack, Damari Monsanto for Wake, Casey Morsell for N.C, State.
Morsell’s 3-pointer, from the right corner with 2:56 remaining, had the Pack ahead 70-66. But the Deacons tied the score 73-73 on a Mansanto baseline jumper.
Smith quickly hit his first two 3-pointers of the game and appeared poised for a big scoring day.
But then the fouls came — for Smith and the Pack.
Smith picked up his second personal with 13:45 left in the first half and headed to the bench. He returned after sitting out four minutes, but was hit with his third foul less than a minute after checking back in.
The Wolfpack had 12 fouls in the opening half, putting the Deacons at the line for 14 free throws – N.C. State had four foul shots in the half. Morsell, Burns and Greg Gantt all had two fouls.
With Smith on the bench and Joiner and Morsell not able to find the range on their jumpers, the Pack began to run its half-court offense through Burns. The results were both good and bad.
The Wolfpack shot 33.3% from the field in the opening half, often settling for jump shots — some open, some not — and missing a number of short shots around the rim.
Burns and Wake’s Monsanto were assessed double technical fouls after banging under the basket.