ACC Basketball: N.C. State 78, Lipscomb 58
By Bret Strelow
RALEIGH ó Julius Mays laughed along with Trevor Ferguson, Brandon Costner and Simon Harris when teammate C.J. Williams failed miserably on a dunk attempt in the final minute of N.C. State’s 78-58 victory against Lipscomb.
A big lead gave the Wolfpack starters a chance to relax on the bench, where Mays stayed for an entire game three days earlier.
Mays, a freshman point guard who didn’t play in an 87-76 home win against East Carolina on Wednesday, made his first career start against Lipscomb and dished out seven assists without committing a turnover. He scored nine points in 24 minutes.
“I know I haven’t started yet, but it kind of felt normal,” Mays said. “I wasn’t nervous or anything. I just came out and wanted to lead my team and run the offense the coaches were telling me to run.”
Mays is the third point guard to start a game for N.C. State (7-1) this season. Farnold Degand, who is coming back from a serious knee injury, took the floor to begin the Wolfpack’s opener.
The role belonged to Javier Gonzalez for the next six games, but he left Wednesday’s contest after his right elbow hit ECU guard Brock Young’s mouth. Young lost several teeth, and the deep cut on Gonzalez’s arm became infected.
Gonzalez didn’t dress out Saturday, and Mays assisted on three of N.C. State’s first four baskets.
He committed a season-high four turnovers in 12 minutes against Winston-Salem State last weekend and didn’t enter the lineup against ECU.
“The fact he didn’t play had no bearings on what I thought he was capable of doing,” N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said. “It was just a situation with substitutions and the way we were going. He’s a solid basketball player, and the fact he didn’t play had nothing to do with him not playing well. I had no reservations at all to start him.”
Mays fed Ben McCauley for a jumper in the opening minute and connected with Harris for an alley-oop dunk. Mays picked up another assist on a dunk by McCauley.
Mays had five points and five assists in the first half, which included a late 14-0 run that enabled N.C. State to take a 37-25 lead into the break.
“He didn’t play the last game and came out ready today,” Lowe said. “That’s the kind of young man he is. He just wants to take advantage of an opportunity, and it presented itself today.”
Ferguson hit four 3-pointers, including three from the left corner in the second half, and scored a season-high 14 points against the zone employed by Lipscomb (4-5). Costner (13 points, eight rebounds) and McCauley (11 points, nine rebounds) fell just short of double-doubles.
Lowe played Courtney Fells, who had missed two consecutive games with an ankle sprain, for six minutes to prepare him for the Wolfpack’s meeting with 24th-ranked Marquette on Monday.
Injuries have impacted N.C. State’s rotation, and Ferguson said all three point guards know what Lowe’s expectations are.
“They’re different players, but they’re out there to do the same thing,” Ferguson said. “Us as players, we read the point guards. We know they have different styles, but at the end of the day they do a good job of running what Coach wants.”