The games starting counting for real Friday, whether NC State is ready or not, but after watching his team dismantle Flagler 102-61 at the RBC Center Monday night in an exhibition game, first-year Wolfpack head coach Mark Gottfried feels that his team is ready for a challenging season-opener against UNC Asheville.
"We did a lot of things well [Monday]," Gottfried stated. "We feel like we can improve a lot, but at the same time we were very unselfish, moved the ball and executed some things offensively. Overall it was a good night for us."
The Pack enjoyed a strong shooting night Monday, free throws aside. State made 56.9 percent of its field goal attempts, including 9 of 15 three-pointers. Junior wing Scott Wood poured in a game-high 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 6 of 8 three-pointers.
Wood got State started in the scoring, making a three-pointer 16 seconds into the game. His third three-pointer of the contest, with 10:17 remaining in the first half, sparked an 8-0 spurt that gave the Pack a double-digit lead at 28-15. Flagler never got within single digits after that.
State though struggled a bit defensively and on the boards in the first half. The Saints actually outrebounded the Pack in the first 20 minutes 18-17 and grabbed six offensive boards.
Gottfried believes that was a direct result though of a lack of defense at the top of the key.
"Rebounding was an issue, but I think what was leading to the rebounding more importantly we weren't moving our feet nearly as well as I'd like, and we were allowing too much penetration," Gottfried stated. "That just breaks everything down. It breaks your rotation, everybody's trying to rotate. You're in scramble mode which usually leaves somebody open around the basket.
"I thought in the second half we were much better at containing the ball, and that kind of cleaned everything up from there."
The defense held Flagler to just 9-of-31 shooting in the second half, 29.0 percent, and limited the Saints to just one three-pointer in nine attempts. The Pack also outrebounded Flagler 24-15.
NCSU put the game way out of reach with a dominating final 12 minutes during which they outscored Flagler 36-10. The Pack enjoyed a balanced attack as Gottfried tinkered with different lineup combinations.
Sophomore forward C.J. Leslie scored 16 points off the bench on 5-of-10 shooting, and he earned praise following the game from Gottfried for his work ethic and willingness to adopt to the new coaching philosophies.
"He wants to be good, bottom line," Gottfried said. "I think that he's very eager and willing to make changes and play harder and play better and be more responsible. I thought tonight he gave great energy. It's not just him, we single him out a lot, but we all as a group make sure we play extremely hard every night."
Three other players had 10 points - senior wing C.J. Williams, junior center DeShawn Painter and freshman forward Tyler Harris, who played the final 14 minutes of the game.
Harris' classmate, forward Thomas De Thaey, had eight points and four rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench. Painter added three blocked shots while Williams dished out five assists and did not turn it over.
State's new point guard, sophomore Lorenzo Brown, had an up-and-down game, scoring just four points but also dishing out a game-high eight assists. Brown though battled foul trouble and turnovers. He was limited to just 22 minutes of playing time because of four fouls, and he turned it over a game-high six times.
Fifth-year senior Alex Johnson though stepped up in Brown's absence. He had six points, four rebounds and three assists with just one turnover in 20 minutes.
"Alex did a nice job of stepping in there and we really didn't miss a beat at all," Gottfried noted. "One thing you have to remember is that Alex is an older guy. He's a college graduate. He's more mature than a lot of guys. I thought he calmed us down, and just played with a lot of poise. He did a nice job."
The Pack opens their season with UNC Asheville Friday night at 7 p.m., in the RBC Center in Raleigh.
"I know that we're ready to play," Gottfried stated. "We got a good opponent to play, an NCAA Tournament team that they have a lot of guys back. That's what makes it competitive for us Friday night. Two senior guards that went to toe-to-toe to Pittsburgh there for a half."
"We're going to get challenged early, and I think it's something this team needs."