In a tale of two halves, a good second one was enough for NC State to open the season 1-0. The Pack knocked off Bucknell 88-70 behind strong guard play and 22 points from Jericole Hellems.
State did not get off to a good start in this one, falling behind 13-1 before finally taking the lid off the basket around the 15-minute mark. It was mostly Pack from there though. State outscored Bucknell 39-27 the rest of the half to go into the break tied at 40, then blew the game open in the second.
State seemed to settle down in the second half on both sides of the floor. Bucknell had just five turnovers in the first half, but finished the game with 17. State was much more effective at creating havoc and paying off transition opportunities in the second half. It also did a much better job getting to the rim in the halfcourt after settling for a lot of threes in the first. The end result was a pretty dominant final 20 minutes.
The biggest positive takeaway from the night was really the play of Terquavion Smith and Dereon Seabron. Smith went 9-17 from the field and poured in 20 points in his college debut, while Seabron posted a double-double with 18 points and 11 boards. The Pack is looking for dramatically improved guard play from last season. This was a good start. Seabron was particularly effective at attacking the basket and finishing around the rim.
Hellems’ 22 and Casey Morsell’s 13 rounded out State’s double-figure scorers. Morsell was active on defense but struggled shooting in his opening game, doing most of his scoring in garbage time, but the slack was picked up by other guys. That’s the nice part about having so many scoring options.
The biggest negative takeaway is that Manny Bates is not healthy. Bates played 57 seconds before injuring his shoulder on a play that featured very little contact. It was kind of a bizarre injury, and certainly not one NC State can afford. We’ll wait and see how long he’ll be out. Ebenezer Dowuona played the majority of the minutes vacated by Bates and did manage to grab ten boards, which was nice to see.
The competition level ramps up from here with the Pack drawing Colgate on Saturday.