N.C. State has won its first basketball game of the season, although it’s not the one the Wolfpack wanted.
The Pack, with senior guard Markell Johnson in the lineup, stopped Detroit Mercy 84-65 on Sunday at PNC Arena.
With Braxton Beverly a constant threat from 3-point range, scoring a career-high 23 points, and C.J. Bryce adding 19, the Pack was able to offset a 28-point game by Titans guard Antoine Davis.
“I thought we did some good stuff,” NCSU coach Kevin Keatts said. “It was good to have Markell back on the floor even though he didn’t score.”
Johnson was a scratch in the season opener against Georgia Tech on Tuesday, making a late decision to sit out the Pack’s 82-81 overtime loss with a sprained ankle. The Pack also was without post player D.J. Funderburk, who remains on suspension and did not dress Sunday.
Johnson showed no signs of favoring his ankle in Sunday’s game, making quick stops and starts. His shooting touch was another thing. He did not score in 18 first-half minutes but finished with 10 assists and seven rebounds, both team highs for the Wolfpack.
Johnson finally picked up his first points -- of the game and the season -- with 11:37 left in the game, popping in a 3-pointer from the key for a 61-43 lead. He missed seven of eight shots in the game.
Beverly was the Pack’s most reliable shooter in the first half, knocking down three 3-pointers, scoring 15 points. Beverly was able to get good looks against the Titans’ point zone and hit a career-best six shots from behind the arc on 6-of-8 shooting.
Defensively, the Pack’s emphasis was pretty basic: slow down Davis, the nation’s leading returning scorer.
The son of Titans coach Mike Davis, the quick-twitch 6-1 sophomore was the Horizon League’s freshman of the year after averaging 26 points a game. He had 48 points against Wright State and set a freshman record for 3-pointers with 132, a record previously held by Stephen Curry at Davidson.
Beverly drained a 3-pointer to begin the game and the Pack led nearly the entire 40 minutes, building a 10-point lead midway through the first half and leading 43-30 at the break. The Titans, playing their season opener, had 10 first-half turnovers.
The Pack’s spacing and ball movement against the Titans zone was effective enough. The Titans attempted to trap out of the zone at times but the Wolfpack zipped the ball around and found open shots.
Another option was going over the top. Manny Bates slipped down the baseline and dunked some lob passes from Beverly and Devon Daniels that were crowd-pleasers.
Bryce and Jericole Hellems hit some medium-range jumpers, finding seams in the zone. Devon Daniels struggled at times with his shot but closed with 14 points. The Pack also got 18 fast-break points.
Titans coach Mike Davis gives his son the ultimate green light to shoot and Antonine Davis never breaks, letting it rip from any distance.
Father is also protective of his son. Believing Antoine had been fouled on a first-half drive -- the guard lost the ball out of bounds for a turnover -- Mike Davis was whistled for a technical foul. Beverly hit both technical foul shots with 3:18 left in the half for a 41-28 Wolfpack lead.
Antoine Davis wasn’t the only coach’s son in Sunday’s game. Titans guard Brad Calipari, a graduate student, is the son of Kentucky coach John Calipari and spent three years in the Wildcats program before transferring.
Coach Calpari attended Sunday’s game and Brad Calipari played almost 15 minutes, missing all four 3-pointers he attempted.
Making sense of the numbers
7 The number of blocked shots by the Pack’s Manny Bates.
10 The number of assists by the Pack’s Johnson in his first game of the season.