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Torrid stretch from Rowan keys NC State

ncstate_logoYou could tell NC State freshman Maverick Rowan was hot when he drained the heat check.

Rowan had hit back-to-back threes to tie the opening-round ACC Tournament game with Wake Forest at 63 on the second one with 4:12 left. Next possession, Cat Barber dribbled patiently as Rowan ran through a middle screen, took a pass from Barber and fired.

Of course it was good. It was Steph Curry good.

“Cat did a great job finding me off the screens,” said Rowan after the game, in which he scored a game-high 24 points on 8-of-16 shooting, pushing the Pack to a 75-72 win.

Rowan scored 18 in the second half, 11 of those coming in a 15-4 run that turned a four-point State deficit into a 70-63 lead with 2:12 to go.

Barber, the ACC’s leading scorer in 2016, had 22 points and six assists, but was just 7-of-21 from the field, so Rowan’s hot shooting in the second half was key to the win.

“I was kind of rushing a little bit shots at times. I had it going a little bit. I was rushing a little bit,” Barber said.

Coach Mark Gottfried dialed up Rowan’s number down the stretch.

“I thought we ran some sets pretty well,” Gottfried said. “(Rowan) really set his man up. Thought our guys did a nice job screening for him, too, on a couple, two or three things we ran.

“Maverick was patient. He set his man up really well. Ran his routes really well. Then he’s a guy, he knows how I feel about him, first time I ever watched him, I said, That guy’s got a pair of steel ones down there,” Gottfried said. “He’s not afraid. He’s never been. He gets it going like that, you can tell he’s confident. Like I said, ran routes really well. Our guys screened for him really well. Cat got the ball. Those were well-executed plays by these guys.”

The win sends State (16-16, 6-13 ACC) to a second-round game on Wednesday with Duke (22-9, 11-7 ACC).

Duke swept the season series, winning 88-78 in Raleigh on Jan. 23 and 88-80 in Durham on Feb. 6.

The Pack is ready for its chance to pull the upset of the defending national champs.

“Just like if it was anybody else, playing anybody else, just not Duke, we’re going to approach it the same way,” Barber said. “It’s great to play Duke again. We’re looking forward to it. We’re going to come out tomorrow and try to get this win.”

Story by Chris Graham