Wake 67, N.C. State 59
By Joedy McCreary
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. ó Ishmael Smith was setting his teammates up for easy shots, then blocking North Carolina State’s attempts. It all added up to a big night for Wake Forest’s small point guard.
Smith had 10 points, seven assists ó and two uncharacteristic blocked shots ó to help the Demon Deacons beat N.C. State 67-59 on Sunday night in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams.
“I’m just out there playing, and hopefully, I can go out there and create, for myself and others, wide-open shots for our shooters, which we do have this year,” the 6-foot Smith said. “I’m just playing my game, being aggressive and finding open guys.”
Al-Farouq Aminu had 18 points and 13 rebounds in his ACC-leading seventh double-double of the season, and freshman C.J. Harris scored 10 points for the Demon Deacons (8-2, 1-0).
The ACC’s top rebounding team managed a 48-40 advantage on the glass, shot 42.6 percent and led for nearly the whole way but had to hold off a second-half comeback bid by the Wolfpack to wrap up its fourth straight win.
Javier Gonzalez scored 18 points, one shy of a personal best, while freshman Scott Wood added a season-high 11 points and Tracy Smith had 11 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 5:28 remaining for N.C. State (8-2, 0-1).
The Wolfpack were 6-for-21 from 3-point range yet nearly rallied from 14 points down, making it a four-point game with 141/2 minutes left before Wake Forest pulled away with a 14-4 run.
It wasn’t exactly a clinic by either team. Both sides combined to miss 23 3-pointers and 19 free throws, and they turned it over a total 32 times ó seven by Aminu, who responded to coach Dino Gaudio’s joke in the postgame speech with a wisecrack of his own.
“I was being a little flippant with them, and I said, ‘You know what? That win was like our team. We won ugly, and we’ve got an ugly team,”‘ Gaudio quipped. “And my guy that never says a peep, Al-Farouq Aminu, says, ‘Our team’s a reflection of the coach.”‘
The night’s prettiest plays came as a direct result of Ishmael Smith’s handiwork ó especially the sequence during that run that had everybody buzzing.
First, he blocked 6-foot-9 forward Dennis Horner’s layup ó just the sixth rejection of the senior point guard’s career ó to start his own fast break. Then, he capped it by lofting an alley-oop pass to Aminu, who slammed it home to make it 48-38 with 12 minutes left.
“I was kind of surprised he got up there and got it,” Aminu said of Smith, who later added career block No. 7 on a layup by the 6-7 Wood. “You can see that he’s trying to put a stamp on this team, too, on defense.”
The Wolfpack didn’t get closer than seven the rest of the way, were denied their first victory in Winston-Salem since 2007.