RALEIGH — If Wednesdays preseason game against UNC Pembroke is any indication, little will come easy for N.C. States basketball team this season.
With so many new parts, the Wolfpack needs time to figure out which lineups will work and which ones wont. The combination of guard Tyler Lewis and forward T.J. Warren was enough to outlast the Braves 96-85 in an uneven performance at Reynolds Coliseum.
Warren scored a game-high 26 points and Lewis finished with 15 assists in N.C. States first time together in the new season. Junior Ralston Turner, a transfer from LSU, added 20 points and four assists.
With five of the top six scorers from last years NCAA tournament team, Turner said its going to be a learning process for the Wolfpack, especially early in the season.
Its not going to happen over night, Turner said. We have a lot of new people, a lot of young people, so you know youre going to go through some growing pains.
Senior forward Jordan Vandenberg, one key part N.C. State was hoping to get more out of this season, injured his left ankle early in the first half.
Vandenberg started the game with Warren, Lewis, guard Ralston Turner and forward Kyle Washington and had two dunks early, but then turned his left ankle at the 14:59 mark in the first half and did not return.
Warren, a sophomore, is the only holdover from last years regular rotation but hes in a new role as the go-to scorer, which he has quickly embraced.
Warren scored eight straight points, with six coming on a pair of 3-pointers, to give the Wolfpack some breathing room at the beginning of the second half.
Lewis, a sophomore, had a steal and over-the-head pass to set up Warren on a dunk in transition for 56-49 lead at 17:03 in the second half. On the next possession, Lewis hit Washington with a no-look pass for a dunk.
The Braves, a Division II team which won 22 games a year ago, gave N.C. State everything it wanted. A jumper by guard Quamain Rose (15 points, seven steals) cut N.C. States lead to 63-60 at 11:46 in the second half.
Freshman guard Cat Barber led a quick 7-0 surge for a 70-60 lead but the Braves kept pushing back. The Pack did not help itself from the free-throw line, especially in the second half.
State made just 15 of its first 29 free throws of the second half and finished 23 of 40 from the line. The Braves also hurt the Pack on the offensive glass, with a 19 to 6 advantage on offensive rebounds.
Junior guard Des Lee (16) added a scoring punch for N.C. State and created opportunities with his defense.
Barber settled down after a shaky start in the first half to contribute 14 points, including seven from the free-throw line.
Gottfried used Lewis and Barber together for stretches and went with a particularly small group to close out the win with Warren and Turner at the forwards with Lee in the backcourt with the point guards.