It was close for a while, then in the blink of an eye, it wasn’t.
N.C. State was locked in a close battle early against Saint Peter’s, but a huge run erased all of that as the Wolfpack cruised to another blowout win, this time 85-57 over the Peacocks.
N.C. State improves to 5-0 on the season and other than a few spurts - like the opening minutes of Tuesday’s contest - haven’t been challenged in a game yet.
The Peacocks (1-3) are statistically the best team the Wolfpack have faced so far, coming in ranked 222 in the kenpom.com college basketball rankings. Every other team N.C. State has played so far this season has been ranked in the 300s. In the opening minutes Saint Peter’s provided the kind of push Wolfpack fans have yet to see through the first four games at PNC Arena.
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The Peacocks led three times in the first six minutes, going up by as many as four. But then Torin Dorn tied the game at 13 with an old-fashioned three-point play, and the rest was history. The Wolfpack went on a 27-3 run and pulled away from yet another over matched opponent.
“I thought we came out in the first half and played extremely well,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said. “We’ve talked about defending and I think there was about a 12 or 13 minute stretch I thought we did a great job defending those guys.”
By the time guard Markell Johnson put Quinn Taylor on a poster with a one-handed dunk for N.C. State’s final basket of the first half, the home team led by 34. The Wolfpack were about as efficient as they come in the first half, with 16 assists on 18 made field goals. They finished the game with 20 assists on 27 made shots.
“We shared the basketball,” Keatts said. “I think we shared the ball, we got good shots. We talked about passing up good shots for great shots. I hope we can shoot like that all the time.”
N.C. State shot 51.9 percent from the field for the game and 50 from three.
Saint Peter’s didn’t do themselves any favors, at one point missing 11 consecutive field goals as the Wolfpack caught fire, shooting 60 percent from the field and 81.8 percent from three in the first half. During the main stretch of the N.C. State’s big run, eight different players scored.
The Peacocks scored four layups and threw down one dunk en route to their early 11-7 lead, but State would but the clamps down on defense, going on an early 7-0 run, sparked by Dorn, who knocked down a pair of early triples.
Dorn got some early help from Jericole Hellems and Eric Lockett, who knocked down a pair of 3s.
The second half didn’t start as smoothly for the Wolfpack, who went on a 2:24 scoring drought, but the home team still led by 25 despite a 7-0 run from the Peacocks.
“The human element is because we played so well in the first half, you look at the scoreboard, because we are a young, mental team, we’ve got to get better and have a better second half,” Keatts said.
The second half performance was one of the main talking points of Keatts’ post game speech, according to his players.
“We came out a little flat,” Dorn said. “Anytime you look at the scoreboard and you’re up 20 or 30 points it’s hard to muster up the same energy, but that’s something we have to work on as the season progresses.”
N.C. State has won all of its games by at least 19 points so far this season. They also scored at least 82 points in each of the contest, but still haven’t put together a full 40 minute game if you let the players tell it.
“We know that’s not how we want to finish games,” Wolfpack center Wyatt Walker said. “It’s kind of hard when you start off that strong, but we can definitely start putting it together and string a few more.”
Dorn led the Wolfpack with 12 points, the fourth time this season the senior from Charlotte has led the team in scoring. Dorn is off to a hot start, averaging 19 points per game to lead the team. Lockett (11), Hellems (10) and Braxton Beverly (10) also topped double-digits. All 10 players who saw action scored for N.C. State. It’s the second time this season Hellems has scored in double figures off the bench. Keatts said he wasn’t ready to call the freshman ‘The Microwave’ yet in reference to former Detroit Pistons’ reserve Vinnie Johnson, but the forward from St. Louis is playing well.
“He deserves to play well,” Keatts said. “What I like about him is his ability to shoot behind the three-point line and put the ball on the floor. He gives us a guy off the bench who can really score the basketball.”