N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said he likes to use the old basketball saying, ‘Miss ‘em early, make ‘em late.’
Gottfried was talking about the shooting of senior forward Ralston Turner, who scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half Saturday as the Wolfpack topped Wake Forest 78-65 in the first ACC game of the season. But the same applied to the rest of the team.
A conference game in the first week of December is a rarity. But the Wolfpack and Demon Deacons were picked to be the leadoff ACC teams this season and the quality of basketball was more of the ragged, early-season variety than smoother mid-season form, with a number of turnovers, wild passes and bad fouls.
“It was a good win for our team,” Gottfried said. “I thought as the game progressed we got better. We started really slow, turned the ball over a number of times and just seemed to be out of sorts offensively.
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“But then I thought we settled in and finished off the (first) half pretty well. I thought in the second half, our energy defensively was a lot better. Turned those into some fast breaks, which was really important to us. We executed our offensive a lot better in the second half.”
The Pack (7-1), bouncing back from a 66-61 loss to Purdue in the ACC/Big Challenge, shot 70.8 percent from the field in the second half after having as many turnovers – nine – as field goals in shooting 39.1 percent.
Turner had four points, all on free throws, as the Pack led 31-28 at halftime. But he knocked in seven of 10 shots in the second half while picking up his only assist of the game on a timely Wolfpack basket.
The Deacons (4-5) trailed by as many as 15 points in the second half. But junior guard Codi Miller-McIntyre, who had a game-high 22 points, helped the Deacs pull within 60-53 with four minutes, 44 seconds left in regulation.
After an N.C. State timeout, Turner swung to the top of the key, behind a double screen. With the Deacons scrambling to stop a 3-point attempt, Turner found Lennard Freeman open underneath for a dunk.
The Pack then was able to finish it off from there as Trevor Lacey finished with 15 points and Anthony "Cat" Barber had 14.
"We got good shots and the right shots," Gottfried said of the second-half offense. "We're a team still learning a lot. We're still a work in progress."
Turner made his presence felt early in the second half as the Wolfpack made a push. He quickly converted a three-point play, Barber scored on a runner in the lane and Lacey drove for a reverse layup and 38-28 lead to force a Wake Forest timeout.
But Turner wasn't through. He first scored on fast break, then knocked the ball away on defense and was off for another layup. After a TV timeout, he drained an outside jumper for a 44-29 lead.
"It was a tale of two halves," Wake Forest coach Danny Manning said. "In the first half we did a decent job defensively. In the second half they had their way with us shooting the ball. We can't let teams shoot that kind of percentage against us."
The Deacons didn't help themselves by missing 14 of 30 free throws – Miller-McIntyre was 3-of-8 from the line. Wake Forest finished 38.6 percent from the field and was out-rebounded 39-31 as Freeman had 11 boards for the Pack.
"This is kind of weird, playing our (first) conference game so early," Turner said. "We talked about it being an early game, so we want to get off to good start. We wanted to win this one, especially at home.
"Early on in the game we struggled. The second half, I think we did a better job of running our offense. Coach always talks about let the offense help you and that's what we did in the second half."
Turner noted the Pack did not execute well in the loss at Purdue, saying it was "on our mind heavy" entering the ACC opener and it showed.
"As the game went on we just relaxed and starting playing basketball," Turner said.
Wolfpack freshman Abdul-Malik Abu said he wasn't surprised to see Turner turn it on in the second half and make big shots.
"Ralston Turner. Every shot that goes up I just put my hands up, because it looks good," he said. "Tremendous shooter, tremendous scorer, better leader. He's a senior and him stepping up is just something we expect all the time."