Bayamon, PR (Betting Express) - The sixth-ranked NC State Wolfpack take on the Massachusetts Minutemen in the semifinals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, with the winner advancing to play either Tennessee or Oklahoma State in the title game.
NC State led by as many as 25 points in its tournament opener against Penn State and went on to win in convincing fashion, 72-55. The Wolfpack, who were ranked No. 1 in the ACC Preseason Poll ahead of Duke and North Carolina, moved to 2-0 as they also won their opener at home last Friday over Miami-Ohio, 97-59.
UMass built a double-digit lead in the first half of its matchup with Providence before allowing the advantage to slip away late in the game, but with the contest tied in the waning seconds, a Chaz Williams missed layup was tipped in by Terrell Vinson as the Minutemen snuck away with a 77-75 victory. It was their second close victory to start the season as they defeated Harvard, 67-64, in the season opener on Tuesday.
The Minutemen have won all three previous meetings between these two squads, with the most recent matchup coming in 2003.
The Wolfpack shot 50 percent from the field in its opening round win, including 8-of-16 from three-point range, and their effort at the defensive end of the floor was impressive as well as they held Penn State under 32 percent shooting. The unlikely catalyst for NC State was freshman forward T.J. Warren, who drained 9-of-12 field goal attempts for 22 points off the bench while adding a team-high eight rebounds. Preseason ACC Player of the Year C.J. Leslie tallied 14 points and Rodney Purvis chipped in with 12 points, hitting three of the team's eight three-pointers. Lorenzo Brown had a dreadful night from the field, making just one of his 10 shots, but he pitched in elsewhere with four assists and three steals. The Wolfpack has one of the deepest teams in the nation, as they have six players who average at least nine points per game.
UMass won its opening-round matchup against Penn State thanks in large part to a great shooting effort as it converted 31-of-61 field goal attempts (.508), but it was nearly done in by sloppy play elsewhere as it committed 17 turnovers and shot just 9-of-17 from the foul line. Once again, Jesse Morgan was the Minutemen's spark plug coming off the bench, as he connected on 7- of-15 from the floor, including 4-of-8 from three-point range, en route to a team-high 18 points. After putting up 19 in the opener, Morgan remains the team's top scorer through two games (18.5 ppg). Williams was hot on Morgan's heels with 17 points and he also contributed seven boards and five assists. Vinson tallied 14 points, including the game-winning bucket in the final seconds, and Raphiael Putney chipped in with 10 points and seven rebounds.