N.C. State got the briefest of glimpses into its future near the end of the first half of Thursday’s 100-66 preseason win over Lynn University.
Freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. got an outlet pass at N.C. State’s end of the floor and then threw a three-quarter pass to freshman Omer Yurtseven for a dunk.
The Wolfpack will have to wait until December for Yurtseven to be eligible but the combination of Smith and Yurtseven will be worth it.
“It was nice to see those two guys in there together,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said.
Smith led all scorers with 22 points as N.C. State shrugged off a sluggish start for comfortable win in their first action of the preseason.
It’s just a matter of what N.C. State will do while Yurtseven serves a nine-game NCAA suspension related to the time he spent with a Turkish pro club.
The seven known opponents — Georgia Southern, St. Francis, Montana, Loyola, Illinois, Boston and Tennessee State — don’t look like much on paper. (Yurtseven will miss two other games in the Paradise Jam in November).
But Division II Lynn, via Boca Raton, Fla., didn’t look like much on paper either. The Knights used guards listed at 5-9, 5-8 and 5-9 in the first half and had a 14-3 lead before Smith started to assert himself.
Smith missed his first two shots and had a turnover on some sloppy ball-handling in transition.
Smith’s slow start can be forgiven. He hadn’t played in an organized game for his school since a loss in the high school state playoffs in Feb. 2015. He missed all of last season with a major knee injury.
Smith didn’t show any lingering effects from the injury. Rather Smith said he was over anxious for his first game action in such a long time.
“I wasn’t nervous at all, I was just over anxious,” Smith said. “That’s why I had to come out and come back in and settle down.”
After Smith got a brief rest, he bulled his way for his first basket of the game at 12:28 in the first half to cut Lynn’s lead to 14-11. He followed that up 16 seconds later with a 3-pointer from the right wing.
“He just had to get his flow,” said forward Abdul-Malik Abu, who had a game-high 15 rebounds and 10 points.
Smith, who’s listed at 6-3 and 195 pounds, has been compared to Chris Paul but uses his upper-body strength more like a young Derrick Rose. He initiated the contact with 6-10 forward Kenneth Nwachukwu with 1:23 left in the first half.
Smith got the basket and the foul. He gave Nwachukwu a flex for good measure after the shot went through. He finished the old-fashioned three-point play to give the Wolfpack a 41-30 lead.
“I was hype,” Smith said after the three-point play. “We had to get something going. We didn’t play well in the first half and I blame that on me. To get some energy going into the second half was good for us.”
N.C. State started the second half with a 37-9 burst to take control of the game. The Wolfpack was more aggressive on defense, on the glass and in transition to start the second half. A 14-point halftime spread grew to 81-39 after a 3 from Smith.
Smith finished 8 of 14 from the floor with six assists and five rebounds.
The second half was closer to what Gottfried had wanted to see from his team on defense and in transition.
“Our defense was able to generate our fastbreak,” Gottfried said. “That kind of just opened it up for us.”
Yurtseven ended up playing 17 minutes and made 3 of his 6 field goals for six points. He added five rebounds.
Maverick Rowan (17 points) and Shaun Kirk (11) both added double digits playing on the wing and benefitted from all the attention to Smith.
With or without Yurtseven, that will be a trend all season for the Wolfpack as Smith finds his way.
“We’re going to watch him this year just continue to get better, too, the more he plays,” Gottfried said of his star point guard. “He had a really great first game.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio