N.C. State had been waiting for Omer Yurtseven. The Wolfpack had been waiting for an easy, blowout win at home, too.
It got both against Appalachian State on Thursday.
Yurtseven scored 12 points in his debut and helped the Wolfpack (8-2) trounce the Mountaineers 97-64 in its largest margin of victory at PNC Arena this season.
“It was really fun,” Yurtseven said. “I really missed being out there.”
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Yurtseven had to sit out the first nine games of the season after the NCAA reviewed his amateur status. The freshman 7-footer played the previous three years for a pro club in his native Turkey.
He finished 4-of-6 from the floor and made 3 of 4 free throws. He also added four rebounds in 24 minutes.
And for the most part, Yurtseven stayed out of foul trouble. He finished with four fouls but was never in any danger of fouling out. That was a point emphasis for him after picking up five fouls in 11 minutes in the second preseason game.
“I’m getting used to it,” Yurtseven said of the officiating. “I have to adjust.”
The big Turk also needs to remember to put on his jersey. N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said Yurtseven left the locker room without it under his warmup shirt. Sartorial gaffe aside, Gottfried was encouraged by Yurtseven’s first college game.
“He just needs to get comfortable,” Gottfried said. “The more he plays, the more he gets comfortable and the more he learns to defend here in the United States ... I think the sky is the limit.”
The versatile big man showed off his range with a 3-pointer in the first half and a foul-line jumper. He had some game rust, too. He traveled the first time he touched the ball after entering the game at 14:57 in the first half and finished with four turnovers.
While all eyes were on Yurtseven, freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. turned in one of the better games in his young career. Smith scored 22 points, made 5 of 8 shots and added six assists in 26 minutes.
Appalachian State (3-6) looked every bit like a team that started the night at No. 283 in Ken Pomeroy’s computer rankings. The Mountaineers were a step slow on defense and didn’t have much firepower on offense besides sophomore guard Ronshad Shabazz (14 points).
“No disrespect to them, but they’re not the greatest team ever,” Smith said.
N.C. State shot 51.8 percent and held the Mountaineers to 31.6 percent. ASU particularly struggled from 3 (4-of-29). Smith said the team goal was to avoid another close call.
“That was the goal,” Smith said. “We’ve proven to ourselves how good we can be.”
The Wolfpack came into the game with wins at PNC Arena by 2 (Georgia Southern), 25 (Saint Francis, N.Y.), 2 (Loyola, Ill.) and 4 points (Boston University). Even in its last home game, at Reynolds Coliseum last Saturday, the Pack went into overtime before prevailing by a dozen points (67-55).
N.C. State didn’t mess around with the Mountaineers, scoring the first 10 points of the game and leading by as many as 24 in the first half.
Yurtseven came off the bench after about 5 minutes and got into a screen-and-roll action with Smith but bobbled the bounce pass and then traveled.
He missed his first shot, a short left-handed hook, but after that he got on track with a layup, off of a feed from Smith, and a couple of free throws.
He popped out to the 3-point line with 2:50 left in the half and buried an open look from the top of the key for a 43-22 lead.
Yurtseven only scored three points in the second half, a free throw with 3:11 left and another hook with 1:07, but it was clearly the start of something important for N.C. State, which has three more games before ACC play begins.
“I thought he did pretty good for his first night,” Gottfried said. “But, again, take it slow. It’s going to come and going to get better every night. Every game you learn a bit something different to apply for the next game.”