NC State

3 Points: Slow start for NC State's Lacey, quick one for Caleb Martin and defensive improvement

N.C. State's Caleb Martin (14) celebrates after slamming in two during the first half of the Wolfpack's exhibition game against Queens at PNC Arena in Raleigh.
N.C. State's Caleb Martin (14) celebrates after slamming in two during the first half of the Wolfpack's exhibition game against Queens at PNC Arena in Raleigh. ehyman@newsobserver.com

Three Points from N.C. State's 78-47 preseason win over Queens on Saturday night:

1) There's a chance this team could win a few early games with its defense. That was the case on Saturday when the Wolfpack missed its first eight shots and started 3 of 17 from the floor but still was able to take a 30-28 lead at the half and then break the game open in the second half.

N.C. State's not going to turn into Clemson or Virginia any time soon — with a defense-first, defense-only mentality — but it can definitely be an asset with the depth and athletic ability on the roster.

"Defensively we should be a lot better this year," coach Mark Gottfried said. "We'll be quicker, deeper, can keep fresh bodies in the game and really get after people defensively. We'll see if that can become an identity of our team."

That would definitely be a departure from Gottfried's first three seasons. A high-scoring offense has been Gottfried's bread and butter, something he's not afraid to admit.

"Even last year with T.J. (Warren) and in other years, we've relied solely — not solely — but you know we're going to win more games with our offense than our defense," Gottfried said. "This team's identity might become a little different."

The Wolfpack finished Saturday's game with 13 steals and 12 blocks. The guards — Trevor Lacey, Cat Barber, Desmond Lee and Caleb Martin — were particularly active in the second half, turning steals into baskets.

"The second half was a little better for us, defensively we came out with more intensity and guarded that's what helped our offense, getting easy buckets," Lacey said.

Gottfried used nine players for at least 15 minutes and kept a pretty brisk rotation going in the backcourt. Lacey, Barber and Ralston Turner started with forwards Kyle Washington and Lennard Freeman.

Bigs BeeJay Anya and Abdul-Malik Abu came off the bench with Lee and Caleb Martin getting the bulk of the minutes.

2) Junior guard Trevor Lacey had hoped for a better debut in a Wolfpack uniform but he was relieved to get the dress rehearsal out of the way.

Lacey, who sat out last season after transferring from Alabama, finished with seven points, four assists and three steals in 26 minutes. He missed his first seven shots, though, and was 3 of 12 from the floor for the game.

"I'm glad this game doesn't count," Lacey said.

Lacey tried to explain what happened with analogy about reporters when he was talking to the media after the game.

"It's like y'all have been practicing and rehearsing y'all's questions and you come out and stutter and mess up, you'd be frustrated with yourself because you know you can do this," Lacey said. "That's how I felt."

Lacey got on the board with a steal off an inbounds pass for a layup at 18:27 in the second half. He spent a good chunk of the second half trash-talking with Queens guard Rob Lewis, who had 12 points in the first half but only two in the second half.

Lacey said Lewis had heard him say something to teammates Cat Barber and Desmond Lee about how Lacey isn't the best defender on the team.

"(Lewis) overheard that and he said, 'I'm going to go at you," Lacey said. "You know, I'll take a challenge. I think I won."

3) The Wolfpack had to slog through the first half with Lacey struggling and most shots not falling. Then freshman Caleb Martin provided a spark with 10 points in the first half.

Martin, a 6-7 wing who has a soft shooting touch, finished with a game-high 16 points in 19 minutes. He added two blocks, three steals and four rebounds. Not a bad day's work for his first college action.

"I was a little nervous before I got out there but I figured it's just basketball," Martin said. "I've got to go out there and play. It's bigger people and a different stage but I just wanted to go out there and play the game I know I can play."

Martin's first basket, a reverse layup, showed his athletic ability, then he had a steal and dunk followed by a 3-pointer in transition.

The highlight of the second half was when he grabbed a loose ball, led the break and then left a pass for twin brother Cody, who made the layup.

"If he didn't' make that layup, I don't know, I probably would have had to beat him up after the game," Caleb joked.

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