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RECAP
12/08/2012 5:14 PM EST
No. 25 NC State beats Cleveland State 80-63
NC STATE 80, CLEVELAND ST 63

By AARON BEARD
AP Basketball Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina State spent the first month
of the season adjusting the pressure that came with being the
preseason Atlantic Coast Conference favorite. Now Mark
Gottfried's team is ready for a long homestand that could help
the No. 25 Wolfpack build momentum before starting league play.



Richard Howell had 17 points and 10 rebounds to help N.C. State
beat Cleveland State 80-63 on Saturday in the Wolfpack's annual
return to Reynolds Coliseum.



Since starting 3-0 with a No. 6 national ranking, N.C. State
(6-2) absorbed a 20-point loss to Oklahoma State in the Puerto
Rico Tipoff championship and lost at third-ranked Michigan in
the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. There was also an 82-80 squeaker at
home against UNC Asheville in which the Wolfpack didn't go ahead
for good until the final 4 minutes.



Those performances seemed to show N.C. State needed time to
adjust as they blended in three McDonald's All-Americans with
four returning starters. The Wolfpack beat Connecticut in
Madison Square Garden for the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday night,
then shot 55 percent and led comfortably most of the afternoon
to start a six-game homestand that will keep the team in Raleigh
until 2013.



"We have learned that we have to play hard every night, every
possession, every practice," Gottfried said. "Sometimes guys
have to learn that. ... We're also learning that for the most
part when you do have some attention around your program, you
better bring it every night because teams are going to play
better against you. We haven't been in that role before so we're
learning that.



"I hope for these guys they just keep understanding if we keep
paying a price every day and really commit to it, we've got a
chance to be good. But we've still got a long way to go in my
opinion."



The message seems to have sunk in for Howell, a 6-foot-8 senior
who earned his third double-double in four games. He had 13
points and 10 rebounds in the win against UConn despite missing
most of the first half with an injury.



"Just me being a senior, I thought I needed to step up and
fulfill that (leadership) role with this being my last year,"
Howell said. "I feel like we can go far but leadership is
something we lacked."



C.J. Leslie added a team-high 19 points for the Wolfpack, and
freshman T.J. Warren scored 16.



The Wolfpack won 589 games at Reynolds from 1949-99 until moving
off campus to bigger PNC Arena for the 1999-2000 season. But the
school has typically played at least one game a year at Reynolds
for the past decade as a nod to the program's tradition.



N.C. State improved to 14-0 in the cozy building since its move,
including a win against Marist in the 2007 NIT.



"I think it's special to play here," Gottfried said. "I think
it's important for our fans, too. I think it brings them back in
here and it means a lot to people. And it's fun, too, the crowd
and how close they are to the floor. Our fans are loud and you
could feel it in there today."



N.C. State pushed ahead to a double-digit lead about 11 minutes
in and took a 47-32 lead after the first half. Charlie Lee (15
points) brought the Vikings (6-3) as close as 57-47 on a
3-pointer with 13:55 left, but Lorenzo Brown answered with two
straight driving scores.



Lee finished with eight of Cleveland State's 18 turnovers, which
led to 16 points for the Wolfpack.



"If we hadn't turned the ball over unnecessarily, we could have
been right in this game," Vikings coach Gary Waters said.
"That's one of the things that I'm trying to correct with these
young kids. When you've got nine freshmen and sophomores, it's
become a teaching game instead of a coaching game. Eventually,
if they don't stop turning the ball over, then I'm not doing a
very good job as a teacher."



Cleveland State, a Horizon League program, played its third
straight game without preseason all-conference pick Anton Grady.
The 6-foot-8 sophomore is expected to miss at least four weeks
because of a knee injury sustained against Robert Morris on Nov.
20.

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