N.C. State turned Wednesday’s final ACC tune-up with Rider into a dunk contest.
There was a monster flush by Abdul-Malik Abu in the first half. A ridiculous tomahawk from Dennis Smith Jr. early in the second half and sneaky two-handed follow by Maverick Rowan late in the second half.
The only thing missing were the placards with numbers to rate all the different dunks and highlights in the Wolfpack’s 99-71 win over the Broncs.
Both Abu and Smith registered double-doubles with Smith scoring 19 points and handing out 16 assists, the most at PNC Arena since the building opened before the 1999-2000 season.
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N.C. State had six players score in double figures and assisted on 26 of 40 made field goals. The Wolfpack defense also held Rider to 25 points in the first half and to 27.8 percent (5 of 18) from the 3-point line.
But all anyone could talk about after the game, the fourth in a row by at least 21 points, was the variety of dunks. Opinions varied on who turned in the best dunk.
“Mine was the best,” said Abu, who had 12 points and 12 rebounds. “Then Dennis and then Mav.”
Rowan’s dunk, with 2:09 left, was easily the most surprising, a “shocker” is how Smith put it. Rowan followed a Smith miss and caught the ball in mid-air and jammed it back with two hands.
“I think it shocked everybody,” Smith said. “I seen him gather and I thought he was going to catch it, old-man layup or something like that. He put it back two hands and he slammed the glass.”
For artistic value, it was hard to top Smith’s.
“Dennis’ was crazy but I didn’t do it, so it’s not my favorite,” Abu said.
There was more of a story arc to Smith’s second-half explosion. Abu just caught the ball at the high post, dribbled in and attacked the rim for a 24-12 lead at 7:33 in the first half.
Smith tried to punch a dunk on Rider’s Stevie Jordan at 17:02 in the second half on a fastbreak. Jordan went for the block, and got a lot of the ball, but was called for a foul.
Jordan disputed the call with the referee, which Smith overheard.
I heard (Jordan) asking the ref, ‘Where did I foul him?’ like he blocked it or something,” Smith said. “I said, ‘Next one, I’m going to put it on his head.’
Smith was a man of his word. On the next trip down, Smith started from the right wing, dribbled twice past Jordan and into the lane. He took off between the ACC logo inside the foul line and the block/charge arc and cocked the ball back with his right hand violently slammed it home.
Abu suggested Jordan had blocked Smith’s original dunk attempt.
“He got blocked,” Abu said. “That wasn’t a foul. You can ask him.”
Smith disputed Abu’s interpretation of the events.
“I don’t get blocked by nobody,” Smith said.
Well, not anyone from Appalachian State, Fairfield, McNeese or Rider anyway. N.C. State beat those four opponents by an average margin of 28.5 points.
Starting with Saturday’s trip to Miami for the ACC opener, the competition is about to pick up. Coach Mark Gottfried understands this but he also sees his team picking up confidence and improving.
“The most important thing that I see is ‘Are we getting better?’ I do think we are,” Gottfried said. “Now we’re going to get challenged as we enter the ACC, which is whole other level of things.”
N.C. State had fun with Rider on Wednesday night but play time is over. It’s time to get out of the kiddie pool and jump into the deep end.