ACC Basketball: N.C. State 69, New Orleans 52
RALEIGH ó Sidney Lowe wants to see North Carolina State’s offense go through Tracy Smith and its defense get its hands on the basketball often. So far this season, the Wolfpack coach is getting both his wishes.
Smith had 20 points to help N.C. State beat New Orleans 69-52 on Sunday, the Wolfpack’s fifth straight victory to open the season.
C.J. Williams added a season-high 12 for the Wolfpack (5-0), who built a double-digit lead in the first 5 minutes and maintained control the rest of the way. N.C. State led by 10 points at halftime, then used an 11-0 spurt midway through the second half to turn away the Privateers’ best run to get back in the game.
The stats offered plenty of positives. The Wolfpack shot 48 percent and hit 8 of 16 3-pointers, with Smith (12 attempts) as the only player to shoot more than 10 times. On the other end, N.C. State blocked 14 shots, with Smith swatting three and Dennis Horner adding four more, and got numerous deflections against a team that beat N.C. State here two years ago on a banked-in 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left.
Then there’s the matter of the Wolfpack starting the season looking much more cohesive than the past two seasons. Four players scored in double figures, with Javi Gonzalez (13 points) starting the decisive second-half spurt with a pair of 3-pointers that immediately reopened the lane for Smith against the Privateers (3-2).
“I’m preaching the same thing I’ve always preached,” Lowe said. “But you have to have it from within. You have to have your guys really believe in each other and believe in the system and what we’re doing, and that’s what they do. They always talk about playing together. That’s been from Day 1. It’s fun to hear that and see that.”
Much of that starts with Smith, who scored on a putback in the final seconds to beat Auburn and cap the Wolfpack’s four-game run through the Glenn Wilkes Classic. He shot 8-for-12 and came up two rebounds shy of his fourth double-double this season.
“They had a tough time guarding me down there,” Smith said. “They had double teams and triple teams, so sometimes I had to kick it out for the open shot.”
The game offered an extra bit of emotion for N.C. State assistant Monte Towe, who was the head coach at New Orleans for five seasons before leaving to return to his alma mater’s sideline in 2006.
It also marked the debut of Wolfpack freshman forward Richard Howell, who missed the first four games while recovering from preseason knee surgery. The 6-foot-8, 266-pound Howell didn’t play in the first half and finished with two points and two rebounds, though he provides the Wolfpack needed depth in support of Smith inside.
However, the Wolfpack again played without senior guard Farnold Degand (academics), who Lowe said would be out indefinitely. Degand was on the bench but not dressed out Sunday.
The Wolfpack jumped to a 14-3 lead on a 3-pointer from freshman Scott Wood that bounced around the rim before dropping through at 15:01 of the first half.
N.C. State led 34-24 at halftime before the Privateers closed to 42-35 on a score in the lane from Billy Humphrey with 12:47 to play. But Gonzalez sparked the decisive run on the next play, burying a 3 from the left corner just in front of the Wolfpack bench that pushed the margin back to double figures.
He followed with another 3, then fed Smith inside for a hook that made it 50-35 with 11:18 left. Horner closed the run with a midrange jumper off an inbound pass and a free throw, pushing the lead to 18 points with 9:44 to play and effectively sealing the win.
New Orleans shot 35 percent, including 5-for-16 from 3-point range, and committed 13 turnovers. Charles Carmouche scored 16 points and was the only player to score in double figures for the Privateers.
“N.C. State is a better team. It’s that simple,” New Orleans coach Joe Pasternack said. “They’re a big team, an athletic team. I thought (Carmouche) played excellent, but aside from him, we didn’t have a lot of production.”