NC State opens by beating Georgia State 69-53
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)—North Carolina State spent stretches of Thursday night’s game with top scoring option Tracy Smith sitting due to foul trouble and its shots struggling to fall.
The defense, however, was good enough to extend the Wolfpack’s run of successful season openers.
Smith had 18 points and 11 rebounds while the Wolfpack pulled away late to beat Georgia State 69-53, giving the program an opening victory for the 16th straight season.
Julius Mays scored 14 of his 16 points after halftime for N.C. State (1-0), which blew most of a 12-point first-half lead and found itself in a tie game with about 14 minutes left. But Mays and Javi Gonzalez made plays to spark the decisive spurt that gave the Wolfpack some separation and, ultimately, a double-digit margin of victory.
Coach Sidney Lowe, starting his fourth season in Raleigh, credited a defense that held the Panthers (0-1) to one field goal over a 7-minute stretch.
“We really got after it,” Lowe said. “We got up on them and put a little more pressure and we dictated the game. We got some steals, got a few stops and then a couple of fast breaks. That was the difference when we blew the game out there. We just had to pick up the intensity.”
N.C. State shot just 41 percent—though it hovered in the high 30s for most of the second half—and missed 13 of 16 3-point attempts. But it helped itself at the free throw line, knocking down 14 of 16 after halftime and 26 of 35 for the game compared to a 6-of-12 effort from the Panthers.
Ousman Krubally had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Georgia State, which shot 37 percent.
“For the first 28 minutes, I thought our kids did a really great job,” Panthers coach Rod Barnes said. “We put them on the free throw line way too much, but that was because of (N.C. State’s) aggressiveness. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve shown some improvement, but this is a tough place to come and play your first game.”
It was a lively finish after a sluggish start for the Wolfpack. For much of the game, Lowe’s team didn’t look sharp and was playing in front of a listless crowd in a half-empty RBC Center. N.C. State led 32-29 at halftime, but eventually built a comfortable lead and even got several transition baskets in the final minutes to display some of the faster tempo that Lowe is looking for this season.
The news wasn’t all good, though. Senior guard Farnold Degand sat out for what Lowe described after the game as an academic problem. Lowe wouldn’t say how long Degand—who wasn’t on the bench—will be out.
“I wasn’t pleased with Farnold’s effort academically,” Lowe said. “He’s eligible, so that’s not the problem. But we have rules. I have rules academically for this ballclub and if guys don’t meet them, then guys can’t play. All of them know it and he understood it and we’ll see when he gets himself back and ready to go. Until he shows it and I’m satisfied with that, then he won’t play.”
Mays put the Wolfpack ahead for good with two free throws, then hit a hanging shot in the lane and two more foul shots for a 45-39 lead. Gonzalez soon followed with a 3 off an offensive rebound from just-inserted freshman Josh Davis to start the 18-5 run that blew the game open.
“I don’t think we were really concerned,” Mays said of the 37-all tie in the second half. “It was to me like they were playing harder than we were (late in the first half). It’s something we don’t want to happen. We came out the second half with a whole different mindset and that was to turn it up defensively and get out on the break more.”
Dennis Horner added 15 points for the Wolfpack, while Gonzalez had eight points, eight rebounds and eight assists after winning the starting point guard job in the preseason.
The game was part of the Glenn Wilkes Classic, though the Wolfpack won’t play again in the event until facing Akron on Nov. 20 in Daytona Beach, Fla.
It also marked a homecoming for Panthers guard Marques Johnson, who sat out last year after transferring from N.C. State. He had two points and two rebounds in 15 minutes as a reserve.