RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) The way coach Rick Pitino sees it, No. 16 Louisville's offense is good enough to keep winning while the defense needs some work. His Cardinals proved that Thursday night.
Damion Lee had 13 points and two clinching free throws with 3.5 seconds left for the Cardinals (13-2, 2-0 ACC), who blew most of a 16-point lead in the final 3 1/2 minutes before hanging on.
''We're just overly pleased to come away with a one-point victory, three-point, five-point - it didn't matter,'' Pitino said.
Louisville shot 58 percent after halftime and 51 percent for the game. And its 9-0 second-half run to rebuild a double-digit lead was an example of why Pitino said his team is ''winning with offense right now.''
But leading 71-55 with 3:38 left, the Cardinals struggled to maintain control as the Wolfpack (10-5, 0-2) abruptly turned a blowout into a tight finish that could've gotten away.
''It's better to learn lessons through victory rather than defeat,'' Lee said, ''with us going home sad on the plane thinking of, `What could we have done?'''
The Wolfpack got two 3-pointers from Caleb Martin followed by another off a turnover from Maverick Rowan that closed the gap to single digits, followed by Anthony ''Cat'' Barber's three-point play that pulled the Wolfpack to within 75-72 with 16.8 seconds left.
Lee missed a pair of free throws, and the Wolfpack got the ball back with a chance to tie. But Barber collided with defender Chinanu Onuaku on a drive - the referees said Onuaku went straight up - and the ball went out of bounds. The call was originally for N.C. State with 7.5 seconds left, but referees reversed it after a replay to set up Lee's final free throws.
N.C. State, which lost in overtime at Virginia Tech last weekend, is 0-2 in the ACC for the first time under fifth-year coach Mark Gottfried.
''We're not far off,'' Gottfried said. ''We're a good team that just has to find a way to get over the hump a little bit here.''
Louisville: Onuaku had 12 points and 14 rebounds. ... Freshman Ray Spalding had 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting. ... Louisville made 7 of 13 3-pointers.
N.C. State: Rowan scored 17 points, and Abdul-Malik Abu had 15 points and 12 rebounds. ... The Wolfpack shot 36 percent. ... N.C. State finished with 18 second-chance points. ... N.C. State held a ''blackout'' with the home team wearing black uniforms.
Barber, the ACC's leading scorer at 22.9 points, finished with 20 on 7-for-22 shooting. He played 39 minutes, continuing his heavy load as scorer, ballhandler and floor leader.
''I feel like this is the hardest game I had to work to get my shot off,'' Barber said.
Pitino was pleased with Louisville's first-half defense, which held N.C. State to 1-for-15 shooting over roughly 10 minutes.
''This was the first time all season where I'd say that first-half defense was pretty special because we were going from zone, man, zone, man,'' he said, ''and it was working for us for the first time.''
Snider had started 12 of 14 games coming in, but Pitino juggled the lineup to get Donovan Mitchell's rebounding on the floor. Snider made 7 of 11 shots with four 3s.
''When I hit the 3s, it got my confidence going,'' Snider said. ''I felt that boost for me, so I tried to attack and find my open shots.''
Louisville travels to Clemson on Sunday.
N.C. State travels to Wake Forest on Sunday.
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