RALEIGH — N.C. State freshman Cat Barber got knocked down in Friday’s season opener, but Appalachian State got knocked out.
After taking a hard foul in the first half, Barber led a second-half surge in N.C. State’s 98-77 win over the Mountaineers on Friday at PNC Arena. Barber had 13 points and six assists to spark a new-look Wolfpack lineup, which got 27 points from sophomore forward T.J. Warren and 24 from junior guard Desmond Lee.
A flagrant foul by Appalachian State forward Tevin Baskin on Barber at 7:20 in the first half didn’t sit well with either Barber or Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried.
“It kind of made me mad,” Barber said. “So I came back in and wanted to show them I was tough.”
Barber, a McDonald’s All-American from Norfolk, Va., keyed a 29-6 Wolfpack run in the second half after sophomore guard Tyler Lewis went to the bench with a fall of his own.
Just 18 seconds into the second half, Lewis went up for an offensive rebound and landed hard on his back and right wrist. With N.C. State clinging to a 43-40 advantage, Barber came in and immediately scored on a drive to the basket. He had nine points during the early second-half surge.
“He’s a tough, competitive guy,” Gottfried said. “I think it did kind of get the juices flowing a little bit, probably with everybody, too.
“That was a hard foul. That was a really tough play. He bounced back and did really well.”
N.C. State is looking for new scorers after losing five of its top six options from last year’s NCAA tournament team. Warren is the only returning regular, and he’s expected to carry the scoring load. He scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half, but he had plenty of help Friday.
Lewis, who finished with 15 points and six assists, came back in at the 14:07 mark of the second half to put an exclamation point on the run. Lewis twirled the ball around his back and then dished it to Warren for a layup at 12:49 for a 70-46 lead. Warren went coast-to-coast on the next possession to cap the decisive run.
“I just kind of wait and stay alert at all times when I’m on the floor with Tyler,” Warren said.
Lee, a junior-college transfer, showed an aggressiveness that had impressed the Wolfpack coaches in preseason practice. He took the ball to the basket, hit jumpers and scored in transition.
After brief pushback by ASU, which was playing without suspended leading scorer Jay Canty, it was Lee’s dunk at 6:38 that made it 76-60 and extinguished any glimmer of hope for the Mountaineers (0-1).
“Desmond’s a finisher, he gets that ball around the rim, he gets it in the basket,” Gottfried said. “He knocked down a 3, he made foul shots, he had a heck of a game.”
Lee finished 10-of-12 from the floor in his first college game, which ended in a blowout; although N.C. State led only 43-38 at the half with 13 points each from Lee and Lewis.
Baskin, a senior forward, scored 15 points in the first half for the Mountaineers and finished with 24. Baskin’s 3 with 1.3 seconds left in the first half cut what was once a 10-point advantage in half.
Barber got back in and got back at the Mountaineers with five of his assists in the second half for the 20th straight season-opening win for the Wolfpack.
Giglio: 919-829-8938; Twitter: @jwgiglio