RALEIGH -- N.C. State wants to win with its offense running through Tracy Smith. The Wolfpack also has to learn to how win without its big man.
With Smith in foul trouble, N.C. State struggled to survive against a Georgia State team filled with ACC castoffs. Ultimately, Smith got on the court long enough to offset a miserable shooting effort and lead the Wolfpack to a 69-53 win over the Panthers in the season-opener.
Smith's game-high 18 points and 11 rebounds, in only 25 minutes, helped N.C. State win its 16th straight season-opener.
A late 18-5 run, capped by a Scott Wood layup at 3:42, brought the previously lifeless crowd at the RBC Center to its feet and allowed them to exhale.
Georgia State, with N.C. State transfer Marques Johnson and Wake Forest transfer Joe Dukes, looked like it would kick off what is supposed to be a down season for the Wolfpack with a dagger.
Dukes scored two straight buckets, to tie the game at 37 at 13:46 in the second half, but the Panthers couldn't take the lead, despite N.C. State shooting 3-of-16 from 3-point range.
Javier Gonzalez hit senior forward Dennis Horner on a set play for an easy hoop, and then four straight points by guard Julius Mays (16 points) started to give the Pack some breathing room. Gonzalez's 3 made it 48-41 and then the Panthers went four minutes without a point.
The Wolfpack couldn't have asked for a better start, with Smith scoring eight of the team's first 12 points. N.C. State jumped out to a comfortable 12-point first-half lead before Smith went to the bench with 7:40 left with two fouls.
Combine Smith's absence, with a 2-of-10 effort from 3-point range in the first half, and Georgia State whittled the Pack's margin to three points at the half.
Familiarly, an opponent named "Hansbro" did some damage. Georgia State forward Xavier Hansbro scored five points in the final minute, a 3-pointer with 43.2 seconds left, made 32-29 at the break.
Hansbro's 13 points weren't enough to offset State's advantage inside with Smith and Horner (15 points).