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12/29/2012 3:36 PM EST
No. 23 NC State beats W. Michigan 84-68
NC STATE 84, WESTRN MICHIGAN 68

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- C.J. Leslie spent most of the first half in
a fog. He stepped into the spotlight just in time.



Leslie scored all 19 of his points in the final 23 minutes to
lead No. 23 North Carolina State to an 84-68 victory over
Western Michigan on Saturday.



"He played pretty good," N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said.
"I don't want him to flip the switch. I want him to play that
way all the time."



Richard Howell added 18 points on 8-of-8 shooting for the
Wolfpack (10-2), who won their sixth consecutive game.



N.C. State committed a season-low eight turnovers and shot 55
percent from the field, padding its NCAA-leading field goal
percentage.



T.J. Warren scored 15 points, Scott Wood had 11 and Lorenzo
Brown added 10 for the Wolfpack.



Leslie had 14 points, six rebounds and three steals after
halftime.



"It was just me realizing that I'm a leader on the team and that
I had to pick it up," Leslie said. "That was it. The first half,
I had to pick it up. I said it to myself, and that's what I had
to do."



Nate Hutcheson scored 16 points to lead the Broncos (8-5), who
shot 36 percent. Shayne Whittington added 14 points and Darius
Paul had 12 for Western Michigan.



The Wolfpack built a 43-36 halftime lead, shooting 60 percent
from the field behind a 7-for-7 effort from Howell.



The Broncos pulled within 43-38 early in the second half, but
they got no closer. N.C. State used a 12-2 run to take a 62-44
lead with 11 minutes remaining.



"I thought the difference between the first half and the second
half was North Carolina State's defense," Western Michigan coach
Steve Hawkins said. "They picked up the pressure a lot more and
took us out of rhythm a little bit."



N.C. State scored at least 80 points and shot better than 50
percent from the field for the fifth straight game.



Howell scored 10 of the Wolfpack's first 16 points, shaking off
a foul-plagued, scoreless outing a week before against St.
Bonaventure.



Howell left the game against Western Michigan with an injury to
his left ankle early in the second half, but he returned less
than 3 minutes later.



"Of all the teams we've played so far - and we've played some
pretty good teams - if there's a player I could take off of any
of those teams, it would be Howell," Hawkins said. "I just love
the way that kid plays. He's a beast."



Western Michigan hung tough early on the strength of its
offensive rebounding, outscoring the Wolfpack 16-6 on
second-chance points in the first half.



N.C. State gained its cushion after a spurt by Leslie.



Leslie went to the bench with 9:18 remaining in the first half
after Western Michigan scored for the fourth time on a putback,
exchanging some angry words with Gottfried.



"That's part of the game," Leslie said. "I don't know any player
whose coach hasn't yelled at him. That just comes with it."



Leslie returned to the game at the 3:35 mark with the score tied
at 32.



He delivered a three-point play on N.C. State's next possession
to spark a 9-0 run, then capped the spurt by reaching a career
milestone in unusual fashion.



Leslie came up with a steal in the open court and dribbled
toward the basket. He slowed to gather himself for a windmill
dunk, and Hutcheson caught up and hacked him on the arm.
Official Roger Ayers checked the courtside monitor to see if the
foul was flagrant, but he kept it a common foul.



Leslie made both free throws to give the Wolfpack a 41-32 lead,
becoming the 46th player in N.C. State history to score 1,000
points.



After that, he took over the game.



"He was a lot more active," Gottfried said. "As the game wore
on, he's blocking shots, getting rebounds, running the floor.
It's a different player. He's got to play that way all the
time."

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