NC State's Dennis Smith Jr: We believe we can play with anybody
The “cool jacket” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said his team was wearing during its 81-63 loss to Miami this past Saturday, was apparently removed before Wednesday night’s game against No. 21 Virginia Tech.
The intensity most players and Gottfried said was missing that game, was finally there against the Hokies in PNC Arena.
And the Wolfpack decided to play defense. At least in the first half it did.
The Wolfpack got out to a 55-30 halftime lead, shooting 70 percent from the floor to the Hokies’ 37 percent. Despite a second-half that was at times sloppy, the Wolfpack never relinquished the lead and went on to win 104-78, behind freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr.’s triple-double. Smith’s triple-double was the second in school history, and the third by an ACC player this season.
It was a big win for the Wolfpack, which was trying to avoid an 0-2 hole in the ACC.
It had been a nearly a year since the Wolfpack had beaten a ranked opponent. The last time was Jan. 30, when N.C. State beat then-No. 15 Miami.
“It was a great team effort for us tonight, beating a team that I had thought coming into this game was probably playing as hot as anybody in the country to be quite honest,” Gottfried said. “I watched a bunch of their games, and I watched the way they man-handled Duke the other day. So it makes me feel good about our team tonight.”
On Saturday, the Hokies (12-2, 1-1 ACC) upset Duke 89-75. And coming into Wednesday night’s game, the Hokies were ranked for the first time since 2010.
But N.C. State (12-3, 1-1 ACC) made them look pedestrian in the first half, storming to a 25-point halftime lead. The Hokies shot 36.7 percent – to be exact – from the floor in the first half and couldn’t get into a rhythm.
N.C. State was sloppy in the second half. The Wolfpack led by as many as 29, but after some turnovers and missed shots, the Hokies were able to cut the lead to 15 with 4:29 left in the game.
But N.C. State responded with an 18-7 run to end the game.
With more than four minutes left in game, Smith skied high for a rebound, recording the first triple-double of his career. The rebound got even hip-hop artist J. Cole, who was sitting on the front row, on his feet. He and the crowd cheered loudly as they learned it was only the second triple-double in school history. The other came from Julius Hodge in 2002 against N.C. A&T.
Leading up to the triple-double, Hodge tweeted out “Sub him out Gott!!!! #myrecord.”
Smith had one word to describe how he felt about being one of two to hold a triple-double at the school.
“Blessed,” Smith said. “I’ve put in a lot of work. I’m blessed. I just thank God I can come out and play.”
Henderson added 21 points, while Abdul-Malik Abu scored 20 points, had 11 rebounds and was 9-for-9 from the floor. N.C. State as a team finished the game shooting 64 percent from the floor.
The Wolfpack will next face rival North Carolina on Saturday in Chapel Hill.