NC State 84, UNC Asheville 75
C.J. Williams had 18 points to help North Carolina State beat UNC Asheville 84-75 on Friday night in Mark Gottfried's debut as Wolfpack coach.
Richard Howell added 14 points and 15 rebounds for N.C. State, which had relatively little trouble against a veteran team coming off an NCAA tournament appearance. The Wolfpack dominated the boards and repeatedly got out in transition, taking a double-digit lead barely 4 minutes into the game and maintaining a comfortable lead the rest of the night.
N.C. State never let the Bulldogs (0-1) closer than six points after that early flurry, running the lead out to as many as 19 points late in the first half and never letting the lead slip below seven after halftime.
Matt Dickey scored 17 to lead the Bulldogs, who follow this game with another Atlantic Coast Conference opponent - top-ranked North Carolina - at home Sunday.
N.C. State was shorthanded for this one after the school announced shortly before tipoff that sophomore forward C.J. Leslie would miss three games after he and a relative received $410 in improper benefits. But Howell more than made up for his absence inside, showing off plenty of energy and improved mobility after losing about 20 pounds in the offseason.
Howell had 10 points to go with eight boards by halftime, while Lorenzo Brown was active at the point. He finished with 13 points and nine assists, though he made his biggest impact early by repeatedly getting hands in passing lanes and swiping eight steals in the first half.
It was a performance that could give Gottfried both reason for optimism and a list of things to work on at the next practice. N.C. State's players seemed comfortable pushing the ball in transition early to play the faster pace Gottfried wants, though they looked stagnant in the second half and unable to increase their big lead.
Gottfried inherited a program that never lived up to potential in five years under Sidney Lowe, who couldn't get the Wolfpack into the NCAA tournament or out of the bottom third of the ACC. Gottfried certainly looked recharged after spending the past two years as a TV analyst, spending much of the game on his feet and actively pacing the sideline while yelling instructions to his players.
He threw in a couple of animated responses to officiating, too. After a borderline foul on Scott Wood in the second half, Gottfried ripped off his black suitcoat in disgust and threw it angrily to his chair. Seconds later, Gottfried sat down in the chair and - for good measure - grabbed the coat and spiked it down again between his feet on the sideline. He coached the rest of the game in his white dress shirt and red tie.
N.C. State finished with a 50-36 rebounding advantage and shot 44 percent. UNC Asheville shot 35 percent, though it missed 11 of 12 to open the game and fall behind early.