Quick hits and notes from NC State's 82-69 season-opening win over Tennessee Tech Friday night in front of 15,540 fans at the RBC Center.
Play of the game
NC State was up 58-48 when freshman forward C.J. Leslie rejected a dunk attempt by Tennessee Tech sophomore forward Terrell Barnes. While the crowd cheered in delight over the play, Wolfpack senior point guard Javier Gonzalez grabbed the loose ball and raced up the court, finding freshman point guard Ryan Harrow running ahead of the play to his right. Gonzalez made the pass, and Harrow laid it in for a fast break basket that put State up 60-48 with 10:08 left in the contest.
Highlight of the game
There were several big-time highlights. Leslie twice was on the receiving end of some nice alley-oops, but the biggest highlight of the game came in the first half when Harrow faked a behind the back pass on a fast break to fool the defender and went around him for a lay-up with 4:02 left before halftime. The basket was Harrow's first official points of his career, and it put NC State up 31-23.
Player of the game
Leslie started his career on the bench, but if he keeps playing like he did Friday night against Tennessee Tech it may not be long before he works his way into the starting lineup. Leslie provided a huge spark for the Pack after a lackluster start for the team that trailed much of the first 12 minutes of the contest. Leslie finished with a game-high 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and a 7 of 11 effort at the line. He also added six rebounds, six blocked shots, three steals and a pair of assists.
Leslie's six blocks led an impressive effort defensively for NC State when it comes to blocking shots. The Pack finished with 13 as a team, the most since they had 14 blocks against New Orleans last year. The all-time record for blocks by NC State in a game was 15 against UNC Wilmington in 1983. The 13 blocks Friday night is a tie for the third most ever in a game by NC State.
In addition to Leslie's six blocks, freshman guard Lorenzo Brown and senior post player Tracy Smith both had two blocks as well. Wood and sophomore forward Richard Howell also blocked a shot.
They helped NC State hold New Orleans to just 35.3 percent shooting from the field, making 24 of 68 shots. State also forced 19 turnovers.
Freshmen lead the way
Like the exhibition game against Pfeiffer Tuesday night, Brown was the only freshman to start, and he played a team-high 32 minutes in the win. Brown finished with 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including 2 for 5 behind the arc, and added five rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks.
Harrow played 24 minutes off the bench and finished with 16 points (4-of-12 shooting) and made all eight free throw attempts. He tied Brown for team-high with four assists and turned it over only twice. Harrow left the game briefly in the second half after doubling over in pain. He told reporters during the post-game interviews that he was elbowed in the chest and had the wind knocked out of him.
The three freshmen combined to score 51 of NC State's 82 points. Also scoring in double figures were Wood (11 points) and Smith (10 points).
Smith appeared to be slowed by nagging preseason injuries still. He made just 2 of 8 shots from the field, but he did have a team-high eight rebounds. At the end of the game Smith was in enough pain that he did not get up for the team huddle during a late NC State timeout. Smith was held scoreless in the first half and only attempted two shots.
Inspirational Tennessee Tech coach
The Golden Eagles are coached by Mike Sutton, who is in his ninth year at Tennessee Tech. He needs just one more win to move into second-place all-time by himself in wins at the school. Sutton's story is even more inspiring when considering in 2005 he was struck with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare, paralyzing neurological disorder that has cost him both legs and left him with very limited use of his hands.
Readers can read a story about Sutton here
What the win means
NC State has now won 17 straight season openers. Their last loss to start the year was 1993 against Weber State in Alaska. Their lost home opening loss was the year before when UNC Wilmington defeated the Pack. NC State is now 85-11 all-time against non-conference opponents in the RBC Center, and they have never lost a home opener in the arena. The Pack is also 12-2 all-time against Ohio Valley Conference teams. This was the first ever meeting between NC State and Tennessee Tech.
Spotted at the game
Former players Chris Corchiani, Ernie Myers, Julius Hodge and Trevor Ferguson were all seen at the game. Myers and Hodge sat behind the scorer's table.
Other stats of note
- The biggest negative from Friday night's game was Tennessee Tech dominating on the boards 47-37, including 20-10 on the offense glass. That helped the Golden Eagles have a 19-15 advantage in second chance points.
- NC State only turned it over nine times. The plus-10 advantage in turnovers for State led to a 21-3 decisive margin in points off turnovers.
- The Pack continues to aggressively push the ball up the court, and they had a 15-6 edge in fast break points.
- The Pack's bench, led by Leslie and Harrow, outscored Tennessee Tech's 38-28.
- NC State had a 32-18 edge in points in the paint.