NC State fans couldn't help but pay extra attention to Wolfpack bench Friday night during the 84-75 victory over UNC Asheville in the season opener at the RBC Center.
New NC State coach Mark Gottfried made his coaching debut and showed off his brand of team-oriented and competitive basketball. He also made sure to whip his jacket twice to get the attention of the officials and the crowd. Gottfried enjoyed his two-year layoff from coaching and announcing for ESPN, but knows he belongs on the sideline again.
"I like that our guys had a nice win where they had to dig down and get something done," Gottfried said. "I got a little animated [with the referees]. It's just part of coaching, part of being over there on the sideline.
"I was anxious all day for me and for our team, but it was fun."
Sitting a few seats down were also a pair of NCSU power forwards Gottfried hopes will be part of the rotation. NC State suspended sophomore power forward C.J. Leslie for receiving $410 in impermissible benefits last May, and freshman power forward Thomas De Thaey was held out as a precaution while the Wolfpack ensure his amateurism checks out.
"It really [happened] in the last couple of days," Gottfried said. "We, our staff, have not been involved in that or the discussions. One thing that is part of life, I told our team, is that you have to play through anything."
Leslie will return for the Vanderbilt game Nov. 19, while De Thaey remains a game-by-game basis.
"We are hoping it will be quick, but again, our staff will do a great job with that," Gottfried said. "That isn't atypical. It happens often with International students.
"[With Leslie], No. 1, he has accepted his responsibility and you move on. Even tonight, his teammates cheer for him a lot. His role for a couple of nights is to cheer for them, which he did."
NC State had more than enough inside against UNC Asheville. Juniors DeShawn Painter and Richard Howell thrived on the increased playing time, and went to work inside to record a pair of double-doubles for points and rebounds. Howell had 14 points and 15 rebounds in 32 minutes, while Painter came off the bench for 12 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in 29 minutes.
"I thought DeShawn was solid at both ends of the floor," Gottfried said. "He was very effective tonight.
"Richard played a lot of minutes, and Richard played a lot of long extended minutes. Some of that was because of foul trouble, and some of that was because of the matchups guarding them."
Versatile sophomore point guard Lorenzo Brown complemented the inside duo by flirting with a triple-double of his own. Brown filled out the stat sheet with 13 points, nine assists, eight steals and five rebounds for the Wolfpack.
Senior wing C.J. Williams added 18 points and continued to show off his outside shooting touch, while also getting to the rim for some athletic finishes mixed in.
NC State started fast, taking a 15-5 lead with 15:51 left in the first half. Brown was the catalyst with nine quick points and two assists during the stretch.
"I thought early in the game, he was terrific in the break," Gottfried said. "He pushed the ball, and I think for him learning really on the break, when to push it and when to pull back. [To know[ when to find the right gaps and seams, and then to make the right pass."
Painter and Howell tag-teamed inside to help NC State build a 47-27 halftime lead. The duo combined for 19 first-half points and 18 rebounds.
The Wolfpack came out a little flat in the second half, and UNC Asheville capitalized. The Bulldogs went on a 14-1 run, which featured three three-pointers, plus a player fouled on a three-point attempt. UNC Asheville's Quinard Jackson hit a three-pointer to pull the Bulldogs to within 48-41 with 15:07 left in the game. The score was the closest UNC Asheville got in the second half.
"We knew at halftime that they weren't going to go away, they weren't going to quit and lay down," Gottfried said. "We were going to have to play for 40 minutes. We all saw why those guys went toe-to-toe with Pitt there in the NCAA Tournament for a half."
NC State junior wing Scott Wood got loose for a pair of jumpers, and Williams eight points during a key stretch to give the Wolfpack a 70-55 lead with 6:31 left in the game.
UNC Asheville shot a blistering 9 of 16 from three-point range in the second half, which helped spur an 8-0 run to cut NC State's lead to 76-67 with 2:53 remaining. However, the Bulldogs never challenged down the stretch.
UNC Asheville had four players in double figures, paced by senior point guard Matt Dickey, who had 17 points.
NC State returns to action Sunday against Morehead State at the RBC Center.