Wolfpack moves to 4-0
N.C. State faced a different type of opponent Saturday in the Maine Black Bears.
The Bears opened in a matchup zone. They didn’t care to run. They used a Princeton offense, looking to shorten the game and get open backdoor looks.
That was the Maine plan. Not that it bothered the Wolfpack, which rolled to a fourth straight easy victory with an 82-63 win at PNC Arena.
The Pack scored the first 15 points of the game and led 48-24 at halftime, when one of the biggest cheers came when the football score -- at the time N.C. State 38, Louisville 3-- was announced.
Things were a bit sloppy and the Pack inattentive at times in the second half, but it all ended well for N.C. State as Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts split up the minutes among his 10 players. Everyone scored, Torin Dorn leading the way with 15 points, nine players had rebounds and eight finished with assists.
“It was a game of different tempos,” Keatts said. “I thought we completely controlled the tempo of the first half and I thought they did a great job of moving the ball around, burning some clock in the second half and kind of limiting our possessions.
“When I look at the nonconference, this is a very good game for us because obviously we want to try and get out and run as much as we can. When you play in our league in the ACC you’re going to have some teams who will try to get you more in a halfcourt game.”
Keatts wanted his team to maintain its drive and pressure in the second half and had to like forward Wyatt Walker diving on the floor for a loose ball in the opening moments of the half.
Walker said the Pack is always looking for ways to hone and improve its game, even with the score lopsided. That’s the way it has been in the Pack’s four games as the final margins have been 50, 46, 51 and now 19 points.
“Whether you’re playing a team that’s really, really good or not that good, you can always do things better,” Walker said. “We’re always playing against ourselves. You do have an opponent out there and you have a score and stuff like that, but there are things you can do even if you’re up 30 or 40 points.
“If you’re getting beat on backdoor cuts or giving up offensive rebounds, those translate into a game where you’re tied or maybe down some.”
The Pack did get beat on some backdoor cuts. But they also did their defensive damage, forcing 18 turnovers that the Wolfpack turned into 27 points.
Markell Johnson opened the game by draining a 3-pointer -- the first of his four behind the line -- as the shot clock ran out, then came up with a steal and fed C.J. Bryce for a 3. The score quickly was 10-0, Pack, then 15-0 as the Black Bears struggled on both ends of the court.
“Getting on a roll early is always an emphasis for us,” Bryce said. “Play with your heart on the defensive end. Our offense always comes.”
The Pack averaged 100 points in dismantling Mount St. Mary’s, Maryland Eastern Shore and UNC Asheville in its first three games. The three victories by 46 or more points also set an ACC record.
It wasn’t that easy Saturday. The Black Bears, winless in their first four games, matched the Pack basket for basket much of the second half, shooting 55.3 percent from the field and finishing with a 39-34 edge.
“We have to stay focused the whole game,” Walker said.
Could four such easy victories create a false sense of security?
“I think you definitely can,” Walker said. “You see teams all the time get complacent and get comfortable with where they’re at and kind of get lackadaisical in their game. I don’t see that with us.”
No complaints from the head coach this day.
“Overall I think it will be a good learning experience for us,” Keatts said. “I never take a win for granted. I’m extremely happy we’re 4-0.”