Updated at: 12/08/2012 3:35 PM
By AARON BEARD
(AP) RALEIGH, N.C. - Cleveland State coach Gary Waters knew it would be tough to match up with North Carolina State’s pair of big men with one of his top forwards sidelined by injury.
Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie combined to score 36 points Saturday in the No. 25 Wolfpack’s 80-63 win against the Vikings, who played their third straight game without injured forward Anton Grady.
Grady, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, was a preseason all-Horizon League pick averaging about 14 points and six rebounds before going down with a knee injury against Robert Morris on Nov. 20. He is expected to miss about four weeks.
Howell, a 6-8 senior, finished with 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting to go with 10 rebounds for his third double-double in four games. Leslie, a 6-9 junior, finished with a team-high 19 points on 7-for-8 shooting to go with eight rebounds, five of which were offensive boards.
Reserve 6-8 forward T.J. Warren added 16 points for N.C. State to keep the pressure on even when Howell or Leslie were resting.
"They’re athletic and they’re long," Waters said. "That’s one of the things that we have faced in the past when we go to the NCAA (tournament) or anything of that nature. We would play against a high-major team with a lot of length, and they have a lot of length. That makes it hard for you to make layups and makes it hard for you to do certain things."
The Wolfpack (6-2) shot 55 percent and led by double figures most of the afternoon in their annual return to Reynolds Coliseum.
Reynolds was the Wolfpack’s home for 50 years before the program moved off campus to 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 building since its move.
Charlie Lee scored 15 to lead the Vikings (6-3), who got no closer than 10 points after halftime.
N.C. State was coming off a 69-65 win against Connecticut in Madison Square Garden for the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday night, capping a demanding first few weeks for the preseason Atlantic Coast Conference favorite.
The Wolfpack lost to Oklahoma State in the Puerto Rico Tipoff championship, then lost at Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. But things should get considerably easier with N.C. State starting a six-game homestand Saturday that will keep it in Raleigh until 2013.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)