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Wolfpack cruises to 91-61 win over Morehead State

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RALEIGH — It's still too early to tell how good N.C. State can be for Mark Gottfried this season, but the first-year coach couldn't have asked for a better start.

Two games, two wins. The Wolfpack made it look easy on Sunday with a 91-61 pasting of Morehead State.

Richard Howell and DeShawn Painter each scored their career-highs while Scott Wood rained in 18 points for the Pack's second straight win over a 2011 NCAA tournament team.

Four years ago, on the same court on a similarly sleepy November Sunday, State lost to a quality mid-major in New Orleans, 65-63 in the second game of the season. There was no such repeat of that fateful loss in Sidney Lowe's second season on Sunday at the RBC Center.

Wood drained all five of his 3-pointers in the first half as State built an 18-point lead. Midway through the second half, State's margin ballooned to 32 points.

Morehead State won 25 games a year ago, including an upset of Louisville in the NCAA tournament. The Eagles lost ferocious forward Kenneth Faried, the country's leading rebounder, and their ability to defend the post.

Howell had 14 of his 25 points in the first half. His dunk, and mini-pose at the 12:37 mark of the second half, gave State a 67-35 lead.

Playing without forward C.J. Leslie, who is serving a three-game NCAA suspension for receiving improper benefits, and forward Thomas de Thaey, the Belgian freshman who is waiting to be cleared by the NCAA, State got plenty of post production from Howell and Painter.

Painter, who moved into the starting lineup after going for 12 points and 12 rebounds in State's win over UNC Asheville on Friday, added 19 points and five rebounds.

Gottfried wanted a challenging nonconference schedule and business will pick up in the TicketCity Legends Classic. The Pack plays annual Ivy League contender Princeton on Wednesday in Raleigh and No. 7 Vanderbilt on Saturday in East Rutherford, N.J.

Leslie has to sit out one more game and there's no timetable for de Thaey's return. If the Pack continues to pass as well as it did against the Eagles, it can offset the holes in the frontcourt.

The Pack had 15 assists on 16 field goals in the first half. Sophomore Lorenzo Brown finished with six assists, giving him 15 in the first two games. Alex Johnson added five assists.

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Things I like

Watched most of this one. It's early, but there are things to like about this team.

  1. Unselfish play is evident and refreshing, especially after watching Pack players going 1-on-5 with little success over the last few years.
  2. The conditioning these guys did over the off-season is obvious. They maintained a high level of energy throughout the game. And they did this while missing two guys expected to get meaningful minutes when they become available.
  3. Lo Brown has bought into his role at the point, sacrificing his own point production to focus on running the team. His assist-to-turnover ratio has been very good in the first two games.
  4. The handling of Leslie. This has nothing to do with his suspension, which appears to have been handled properly by State and Leslie himself. It seems that State has made a point of minimizing his role as the face/savior of the program. On Gopack.com, the ad that comes up for ticket packages has four players, but not Leslie. Gottfried has taken to call Leslie by his given name, reserving CJ for the senior on the team. I'll withhold final judgement until we see how Calvin adapts to the team's new, unselfish style, but I expect that he will get with the program or spend even more time on the bench.
  5. During one of the timeouts, they showed Gottfried at the marker board in the locker room talking to the team. The board looked like something Sheldon would produce on "The Big Bang Theory". I believe that State's players got little or no effective coaching from Sid and his staff. They appear to be getting it now and are soaking it up like sponges.

Yes, it is early and it is dangerous to get to excited after just two games. But State has struggled mightily in early games against mediocre opponents for the past few years. This team looks energized and committed. The proof will come against some pretty stiff OOC competition and once they get into conference play.

I'm looking forward to it.

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About the blogger

Joe Giglio covers the ACC for the News & Observer, where he has worked since 1997.
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