NC State

N.C. State cruises to 91-61 win over Morehead State

N.C. State's Richard Howell shoots in the second half during the Wolfpack's 91-61 victory over Morehead State.
N.C. State's Richard Howell shoots in the second half during the Wolfpack's 91-61 victory over Morehead State. ETHAN HYMAN -

It's still too early to tell how good N.C. State can be for Mark Gottfried this season, but the first-year coach couldn't have asked for a better start.

Two games, two wins.

The Wolfpack made it look easy on Sunday with a 91-61 pasting of Morehead State. Richard Howell (25 points) and DeShawn Painter (19) each scored their career-highs while Scott Wood rained in 18 points for the Pack's second straight win over a 2011 NCAA tournament team.

Gottfried tried to pump the breaks on over-reacting to the first two wins but said he was pleased with the start.

"We are playing the game the right way, that's what I like," Gottfried said.

The "right way," Gottfried said, includes sharing the ball (26 assists on 33 field goals) and defending (the Eagles shot 34.6 percent in the second half).

The byproduct is a relatively easy and entertaining win. Four years ago, on the same court on a similarly sleepy November Sunday, State lost to a quality mid-major in New Orleans, 65-63 in the second game of the season. There was no such repeat of that fateful loss in Sidney Lowe's second season on Sunday at the RBC Center.

And State has shown a punch on offense it lacked for much of Lowe's five seasons. In 164 games under Lowe, the team reached the 90-point mark just three times.

"We're getting everyone involved," Wood said.

Wood drained all five of his 3-pointers in the first half as State built an 48-30 halftime lead. Midway through the second half, the margin hit 32 on a dunk by Howell and 36 before a parade of reserves closed out the game. A late 3 from walk-on Staats Battle brought what was left of the announced crowd of 10,082 to its feet.

Howell had 14 of his 25 points in the first half and finished with eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks. He's lighter on his feet after losing 20 pounds in the offseason and the ability to get off the floor and dunk is a result of the weight loss.

"I couldn't do that last year," said Howell, who had three dunks, which helped him go 11-of-13 from the floor.

Morehead State won 25 games a year ago, including an upset of Louisville in the NCAA tournament, but the Eagles lost ferocious forward Kenneth Faried, the country's leading rebounder, and their ability to defend the post. Playing without forward C.J. Leslie, who is serving a three-game NCAA suspension for receiving improper benefits, and forward Thomas de Thaey, the Belgian freshman who is waiting to be cleared by the NCAA, State got plenty of interior production.

Painter, who moved into the starting lineup after going for 12 points and 12 rebounds in State's win over UNC Asheville on Friday, added 19 points, five rebounds and two dimes.

Gottfried wanted a challenging nonconference schedule and business will pick up in the TicketCity Legends Classic. The Pack plays annual Ivy League contender Princeton on Wednesday in Raleigh and No. 7 Vanderbilt on Saturday in East Rutherford, N.J.

"I'm a realist," Gottfried said. "I know that our competition is going to get much greater."

So far, the Pack has been up to speed.