Smith, Joiner lead NC State to victory in Heritage Game

Duson Mahorcic suffered a scary knee injury in he second half

NC State guard Jarkel Joiner looks to drive by Coppin State's Isaiah Gross during NC State's win Tuesday in Raleigh. (Ethan Hyman / The News & Observer via AP)

RALEIGHT — In its annual Heritage game at Reynolds Coliseum, NC State got its old barn rocking as they rolled over the Coppin State 94-72 Tuesday night. Guards Jarkel Joiner and Terquavion Smith combined for 62 points to lead the Wolfpack.

NC State (8-2, 0-1 ACC) 52.2% from the field, including 44.8% success rate from beyond the arc, to shake off a 35% performance against Pitt in the team’s ACC opener on Friday.

Joiner went 0 for 12 from the field and Smith managed just 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting in the loss to Pitt. But wearing throwback 1983 classic jerseys, the duo dominated the overmatched Eagles.

“I thought our guards did a great job controlling the game, and that’s the maturity I’m looking for,” said NC State coach Kevin Keatts. “I’ve got a senior that’s been around for a long time in Jarkel, but I’ve also got a guy who is an elite scorer who a lot of the conversations I’ve had with him are about controlling the game and being efficient down the stretch.”

Smith outpaced his entire 32-minute output against Pitt in less than 10 minutes of game time against Coppin State and put up his best performance of the season, finishing with 33 points and seven assists.

Joiner outdid his last performance within 23 seconds, draining his first look of the game. The graduate point guard finished the night with 29 points on 11-of-17 shooting and 5 for 7 from 3. 

“I feel like we are the best backcourt in the ACC,” Smith said. “I think it’s going to be hard to stop us, and especially when things get going. I feel like all we have to do is defend because the offense is going to come. If we stop other guards then that will just prove our case.”

“They’re good, and tonight they were electric,” Keatts said. “They were really good. Every run that Coppin State made, they were there to answer.”

The Wolfpack set the tone early, draining back-to-back 3s to kick off the game and then quickly pulling out to a 12-6 lead at the first TV timeout. The lead expanded quickly thanks to a 21-2 run and, despite a bit of a colder finish to the half, NC State led 49-32 after 20.

An injury to center Dusan Mahorcic early in the second half knocked the wind out of the Wolfpack’s sails. The team struggled to regroup after witnessing Mahorcic’s dislocated kneecap and then watching him fight back tears as it was reset on the court before he was then ultimately helped off.

The Eagles shrank the Wolfpack lead from as high as 25 down to 10 with under seven minutes to go. 

Fouls and streaky shooting helped propel Coppin State back into the game, and Eagles guard Sam Sessom was dominant in the second half with 12 of his 24 points coming down the stretch.

But Smith and Joiner helped stop the bleeding, and eventually the Pack pulled away.

“I thought we had a good first half,” Keatts said. “Didn’t close the first the way I wanted to, but we came out, I thought, playing a lot better in the second half. Unfortunately, with Duson’s situation, it kind of took the air out of us a little bit. But I thought we did well to close the game.”

Keatts had no update on Mahorcic after the game, but an extended absence would be a tough pill to swallow for NC State with how well the Serbian center was playing.

Regardless, the Wolfpack will need to have that next-man-up mentality as they hit the road to take on Miami on Saturday in their second ACC matchup of the season.

“We knew we had to get this one before going back into ACC play,” Joiner said. “We’re going to be rocking and rolling now from here.”