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March 15, 2013
By Bill Hass
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Scott Wood gave a perfect demonstration of one of the favorite descriptions used by NC State coach Mark Gottfried.
“I think our team is beginning to find, you know, that groove,” Gottfried said Friday afternoon after the Wolfpack flattened Virginia 75-56 in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament. “I like to use that word.”
Wood led the way with 23 points, hitting 7 of 12 shots – all 3-point attempts. The senior guard’s trio of 3s in a span of 1:23 early in the second half pushed the Pack to a 16-point lead and the Cavaliers never mounted a serious run after that.
“My teammates did a good job of setting screens and gave me a couple of good looks,” Wood said, “and once I started knocking them down it gave me confidence.”
Gottfried, a pretty fair shooter himself back in his playing days, said Wood just kept delivering when he got the ball.
“When he gets going like that I’m not sure there is a better shooter in the country,” Gottfried said. “I’ve said that many times. I told him he’s the second best shooter in the gym behind me, but he’s getting close.”
The Cavaliers were hanging around, down 32-21, when Wood’s streak started. A steal by T.J. Warren ignited a fast break that ended with Wood hitting a three at the top of the arc.
Virginia scored and Wood followed with his next three from the right side. The Cavs managed another basket but Wood answered with an outrageous, fade-away shot from the right corner that stripped cleanly through the net. That made it 41-26 and Virginia was essentially done.
“Those are the hardest shots because you’ve moving and getting pretty high in the air,” Wood said.
Teammate Richard Howell, who has played with Wood for four seasons, laughed when asked about that last one.
“He practices those kinds of shots,” Howell said. “He’ll be playing around in the gym and it goes in every time. You really don’t see anyone practicing weird shots like that, but Scott is that type of person.”
Wood claimed there was a good reason.
“You’ve got to be prepared to do anything out there,” he said. “(To make) shots like that, you’ve got to go hard in practice so you know what it’s like in a game.”
One thing for sure, Wood’s teammates look for him when he gets hot.
“I don’t care where he is, I’m going to get him the ball (when he’s shooting like that),” said point guard Lorenzo Brown. “Once he gets going it’s hard to stop him; when he gets in rhythm it’s hard to contain him.”
In the first half, Wood nailed back-to-back 3-pointers that helped push State’s lead into double figures. The second one came on a fast break led by guard Tyler Lewis, who made a no-look, one-bounce pass back to Wood several feet behind him. Wood caught it and shot in one motion. It was one of the highlight plays of the game.
“I’ve been doing (that pass) all my life, so it was really nothing hard for me,” Lewis said. “Scott had just hit a three on another possession, so I just got it back to him and let him hit the shot. I had a sense that he was behind me.”
Wood wasn’t surprised by the pass.
“He gave me a little glance so I probably knew it was coming,” Wood said. “Tyler is such a great passer he knows where everybody is on the court at all times.”
Wood surpassed Rodney Monroe as State’s all-time leader in 3-pointers. The seven he hit Friday brought his career total to 326, four more than Monroe.
But there was more to his game against Virginia than just shooting.
“Thank you,” Wood said with a laugh when someone asked him about his defensive effort on Cavalier star Joe Harris.
Harris entered the game averaging 18.4 points and shooting 48.3 percent against ACC opposition. He scored just 13 points, making only four of 13 shots. Wood was the primary defender but he credited help from Brown, Howell, Warren and C.J. Leslie as a key ingredient.
“I would like to take pride in my defense tonight,” Wood said. “A lot of them he just missed and I’m sure he missed some that he usually knocks down. You’ve just got to stay close to him and my teammates did a good job helping me.”
Gottfried said State did well not letting Harris get open looks at the basket.
“We made it hard for him,” Gottfried said. “Even when he curled off the screens on the wings we did a nice job of not allowing him to dribble-drive to the basket, which he does well. He’s strong enough to get to the rim (and) we eliminated some of that.”
The Wolfpack players believe playing good defense is the main reason State has won eight of its last 10 games and is looking like the team that was the preseason pick as No. 1 in the ACC. In the first round Thursday, it held Virginia Tech’s Erick Green, the leading scorer in the country at better than 25 points per game, to 15 points on 5-of-19 shooting.
Things don’t get any easier for the Wolfpack (24-9) on Saturday when it faces top-seeded Miami at 1 p.m. in a semifinal matchup. It gives State a chance to get even for a 79-78 loss to the Hurricanes in Raleigh, a game Brown missed with an injury.
“You always remember who you lose to,” Wood said when asked if revenge was a motivating factor.
Stopping the Hurricanes means State must find a way to deal with whippet-quick point guard Shane Larkin and several other good shooters.
“He’s quick, crafty and definitely the head of their team,” Lewis said. “I feel like if we take him out, we’ll beat them because if you knock off the head, you kill the body. And that’s a compliment to Shane because he led that team to the ACC regular season championship.
“But we’ve stopped two of the top scorers in the league, so we know if we can stop them we can stop anybody.”
Wood said it all goes back to team defense.
“You’ve got to do it together, you’ve got to do it collectively,” he said. “Miami has a lot of good shooters so it’s going to be hard to help, but we’ve just got to do a good job of getting stops.”
And, of course, it won’t hurt if Wood can keep hitting some of those weird 3-pointers to help keep the Wolfpack in the groove.
Bill Hass is a long-time observer of ACC sports. His career at the Greensboro News & Record spanned 36 years, from 1969 until his retirement in March 2006. He is now writing "Bill Hass on the ACC" for theACC.com. His weekly columns will keep fans plugged in to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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