The NC State basketball team has an abundance of offensive weapons, as it displayed again Thursday by getting scoring contributions from 11 different players. But it was the defensive pressure the Wolfpack put on UMass-Lowell, especially early in the game, that led the way to an impressive 90-59 rout of the Riverhawks inside the Mohegan Sun “bubble” in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Coach Kevin Keatts’ team forced 19 turnovers, held its opponent to 19 first-half points and limited UMass-Lowell star Obadiah Noel to just 10 points, less than half his average, to put its opponent away quickly and win for the third time in as many games to start the new season.
“We watched a lot of film on them. We knew what they were going to bring and we did a nice job of taking them out of their routine, taking them out of their sets,” senior guard Devon Daniels said. “When we start the game bringing that much pressure, it breaks down the other team’s confidence.
“They competed well. They brought it. But when we start off defensively like that, it’s going to be tough for any team to get going versus us.”
Using its defensive pressure to create easy offensive opportunities, the Wolfpack wasted little time breaking open the game — which was added to the schedule earlier this week — against its opponent from the America East Conference.
With Daniels attacking the rim and teammate Jericole Hellems hitting from the perimeter, State ran off a 12-2 run to open up a double-digit lead just eight minutes into the game. It extended the advantage to 24 by halftime with another extended spurt, this one 19-4 over an eight-minute stretch later in the period.
UMass-Lowell (1-3) never got closer than 21 points the rest of the way with the Wolfpack’s lead growing to as many as 34 before Keatts began allowing his young players to gain some valuable experience.
Daniels led State’s balanced attack with 18 points while Hellems and freshman point guard Cam Hayes added 17 points each. Hayes went 7 of 12 from the floor (3 of 6 on 3-pointers) while continuing to establish himself as the Wolfpack’s primary point guard by handing out six assists with only one turnover.
As a team, the Wolfpack shot 52.3%, including 55.9% in the second half. It has shot better than 50% from the floor each of its first three games this season.
“We have a lot of pieces. Our guys are playing hard. Our guys are buying in,” said Keatts, whose team will remain in the Uncasville bubble until Saturday, when it steps up in competition to take on UConn. “I like our team and the energy that we are providing each time out. I’m excited about it, and I look forward to continuing to watch these guys grow.