The NC State Wolfpack got to 2-1 on the season extremely late Wednesday night when it closed out FIU 86-77. It wasn’t an outstanding effort for the Pack, but it’s the third game of the year and it’s a win, so you take it and move on.
The Panthers came out screaming hot from the field and opened up a 20-10 lead as the Pack struggled with the Panthers defense. Senior Pat Andree led the rally that eventually resulted in a 37-37 tie at the break. The senior shooter hit four straight threes in the first half for the second time this year, including a deep heat check.
It was a back and forth contest in the second half until the Pack eventually went on a meandering run to open a lead it would not relinquish. The run coincided with a ramp-up in defensive intensity that caused the Panthers to melt down a little. State forced a ton of turnovers in the second frame, and FIU added a few freebies for good measure, giving State’s plodding offense enough opportunities to build a lead.
This was not State’s best game. It didn’t get an A game from superstar Markell Johnson. The senior guard hit some tough shots late in the second, but was 3-14 overall. State will need engaged Markell to have a chance against the upper tier of the ACC. The Pack also missed a zillion free throws down the stretch that would have allowed it to close the game out much easier, and generally didn’t seem to bring a lot of energy to the court until late in the second half.
The bench provided some needed sparks though. State only played eight guys, but Daniels, Andree, and Funderburk all scored at least 11 points, and Funderburk added seven boards.
On the starter side, C.J. Bryce and his unmissable mid-range jumper again led the Pack in scoring with 16. Bates and Johnson also hit double figures with 10.
State shot just 6-23 from beyond the arc on Wednesday night. The Pack’s outside shooting has shredded the zone defense in the instances it has faced it this season, but the Pack has struggled to get good shots against a man-to-man look. State needs Markell Johnson to be on for its offense to be efficient against the kind of defense it saw tonight. He’ll eventually get back in his groove and it will be really fun when it happens.
In the meantime, State is 2-1 and looks ahead to three more mid-major games before things get real with Memphis and Wisconsin.