Caleb Martin flew down the court and flushed a dunk on IUPUI forward Evan Hall in the second half.
Martin was fouled on the play and had a chance to make it a three-point play but missed the free throw.
It was that kind of night for N.C. State, which did enough to beat IUPUI 79-56 Wednesday but could have won by more with a better performance from the free-throw line.
The Wolfpack (2-1) missed 16 free throws (23 of 39) but had four players in double figures, led by 19 from junior point guard Cat Barber, to put away the Summit League foe.
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“I don’t think every game is going to be like that,” Barber said of the team’s free-throw woes.
Barber (9-for-11) was the only N.C. State player who had any kind of touch from the foul line. The Wolfpack especially struggled during the first half, going 7-for-16.
“This game was close because we’ve got to make a foul shot,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “We’ve got to be a lot better at the foul line, it’s real simple.”
Gottfried said his team has good foul shooters, but his starters other than Barber went 11-for-22. Sophomore forward Abdul-Malik Abu chipped in 14 points, nine rebounds and two blocks but was 6-of-11 from the line.
The misses were contagious in the first half, Abu said.
“Definitely, when you miss them as a team, you want to make them more,” Abu said. “We just have to focus in and knock them down.”
IUPUI, a joint campus of Indiana and Purdue located in Indianapolis, stayed in the game with nine 3-pointers. The Jaguars (1-2) got back-to-back 3s from junior forward Matt O’Leary (17 points) to cut N.C. State’s lead to 30-25 at 5 minutes, 19 seconds in the first half.
Barber responded with a jumper and then freshman guard Maverick Rowan (15 points, seven rebounds) scored four straight points.
N.C. State led by as many as 16 in the second half before another 3-point flurry, with one by O’Leary at 8:18, to cut the margin to 59-50.
Martin, who finished with 15 points, quickly turned the momentum back in the Wolfpack’s favor with the dunk over Hall.
N.C. State also turned up its pressure after Martin’s dunk and was able to stretch its lead to 75-55 before Gottfried went to the bench.
Since giving up 51 first-half points during Friday’s 85-68 loss to William & Mary, N.C. State hasn’t allowed more than 40 in a half.
“Defensively, we’re starting to get a little bit better,” Gottfried said.
With only a seven-man rotation, the Wolfpack has been only able to turn up the defensive intensity in spurts, though.
N.C. State held IUPUI to nine field goals and 29 percent from the floor in the second half and 33.3 percent for the game.
N.C. State shot better from the floor in the first half (45.2 percent) than the foul line (43.8 percent).
Still, after dropping the opener to William & Mary, the Wolfpack has beaten South Alabama and IUPUI. “Power 5” opponents are up next with Arizona State on Monday in Brooklyn, N.Y., and either Marquette or Louisiana State on Tuesday.
The schedule is about to pick up and Gottfried sees his young team doing the same.
“Steps in the right direction but, obviously, we know we have a long way to go,” Gottfried said.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio