RALEIGH — Considering how some of the other ACC basketball teams have struggled in their preseason games, N.C. State's 102-61 win over Flagler College on Monday was an unqualified success.
The Wolfpack, in first-year coach Mark Gottfried's first game, showed a promising spark on offense, with a new up-tempo style, — and the old shooting sensibility of Scott Wood (24 points) — in a relatively elementary dismissal of the Division II Saints.
By comparison, Maryland (winners by five), Boston College (by four) and Miami (by 10) labored in their warmups for the regular season, which starts Friday for the Wolfpack with a visit from UNC Asheville.
But Gottfried, whose offseason mantra has been "we've got a long way to go" isn't interested in comparisons, even to teams in his own league, rather a standard he thinks is required to win.
And as many good things as Gottfried saw on Monday — a focused C.J. Leslie, an improved C.J. Williams and a much-needed energy boost from guard Alex Johnson — there were also red flags.
The Saints, with a smaller lineup, out-rebounded State 18 to 17 in the first half. The defensive intensity, understandably lax for a game that doesn't count, was below the level Gottfried eventually wants the team play when the heart of the ACC schedule arrives in two months.
Wood, a junior guard, was in midseason form with six 3-pointers in the first half, as State built a 51-37 advantage. Wood chipped in two rare 2-pointers in the second half to finish with a game-high 24 points.
Leslie, who came off the bench with Jordan Vandenberg starting instead, finished with 16 points and five rebounds. The gifted Leslie, who was inconsistent as a freshman, showed what he does best in two alley-oop dunks — both from Johnson — and showed some intensity in an individual duel with an unusually animated Ante Gospic. Leslie missed a dunk, too, in the second half, but he didn't hang his head.
Gottfried figured he needed Johnson, who graduated from Cal State Bakersfield, with the departure of Ryan Harrow to Kentucky. Johnson, who's undersized at 5-10, showed an ability to push the ball and find the right people in the right spots on the fast break. He has developed a quick rapport with Leslie, with two of his three assists to Leslie.
Sophomore Lorenzo Brown, who is taking over at the point after spending last season on the wing, finished with eight assists but had six turnovers.
Williams (10 points), who had six 3-pointers in 31 games last year, added a pair of 3s in the first half.