Florida State’s Cam Corhen controlled the opening tip Wednesday and Matthew Cleveland then beat the shot clock by making a jumper.
Call it a good start for the Seminoles.
Little did they know what was coming.
The next 15 minutes would be N.C. State basketball at its best as the Wolfpack bolted to a 30-point lead and rolled on to a 94-66 victory as sophomore Terquavion Smith had 32 points.
Call it a red blitz. The Pack (18-5, 8-4 ACC) built leads of 20-4, 35-6 and 40-10 in the opening half, hitting shots, forcing turnovers, hustling after loose balls and once reeling off an 18-0 run.
Not that the Seminoles went away quietly. FSU (7-16, 5-8), which had won five in a row over N.C. State, used some aggressive defense to bite into the Wolfpack’s lead late in the first half – NCSU led 49-27 at the break – and continued to push early in an evenly played second half.
“One of the challenges with our guys was that we didn’t play their record and we played the team,” NCSU coach Kevin Keatts said. “When you look at them they’re way better than their record. With their injuries, they had some losses.
“But we played well tonight. Other than the last five minutes of the first half I thought we did a great job. It was one of those great defensive nights and we happened to make shots.”
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said the Wolfpack’s defense was the most disruptive and effective of the teams Keatts has had at N.C. State, noting few teams choose to press the Seminoles.
“They were motivated and energized to the maximum degree,” Hamilton said.
The Pack shut down the ‘Noles at the 3-point line. FSU was 3-of-10 on 3’s after making 13 in its last game, in a close loss against Clemson.
“As a team we were just so locked in from the beginning,” Smith said.
Hamilton said the Pack offensively was able to “create off the bounce” – N.C. State had just 10 assists on 32 made baskets. — and hit 12 of 20 of its 3-pointers.
Smith had 16 points in the first half and knocked down five of his six 3’s in the game – one from 28 feet. One second-half highlight for Smith was being mugged driving the lane but somehow getting off a high-arching shot that fell and converting it into a 3-point play.
The Pack’s D.J. Burns picked up a fourth foul with 16:23 left in the second half, sitting out the next nine minutes. After his 31-point outburst Saturday in the Pack’s road win at Wake Forest, when he ignited for 23 in the second half, Burns finished with 15 points.
Keatts could not have scripted a better start as the Pack had a lot of bounce in its step after the Wake Forest win.
“Our defense was sharp and anchored us,” Keatts said.
Hamilton used his timeouts and sent out different lineups but nothing worked until the final five minutes of the half.
Late in the first half, Smith forced some shots, barking at the referees about fouls and later having Keatts bark at him during a timeout.
“I coached him,” Keatts said. “I wasn’t miffed at him but I coached him. He allowed me to coach him and jump on him and he responded in the second half.”
The Wolfpack had one basket in the final 4:14 of the half – a 3-point play by LJ Thomas – in closing the opening half with the 49-27 lead.
Smith said the Pack was a bit “laid back” after building the 30-point first-half lead, making a few too many mistakes and missing some open shots.
“We started doing some uncharacteristic things,” Smith said. “Just because we were up a lot we started going one-on-one, not running our plays.
“Coach had to get us right. Coach told us to stay downhill and stay aggressive and finish the game.”