Wolfpack easily handle Florida State in low-stress affair

NC State's Terquavion Smith drives by Florida State's Jalen Warley during the Wolfpack's win Wednesday in Raleigh. (Ethan Hyman / The News & Observer via AP)

RALEIGH — Wednesday night at PNC Arena saw perhaps the easiest win that the NC State Wolfpack have had — and will have — in conference play this season.

The Wolfpack (18-5-0, 8-4 ACC) barreled through Florida State (7-16-0, 5-7-0 ACC), defeating them 94-66. The 28-pont margin of victory was the largest ever for NC State over the Seminoles.

FSU’s only lead all game came off of the first basket of the night 31 seconds into the match, and it lasted all of 22 seconds, as Terquavion Smith drained his first of six 3-pointers to start the Wolfpack run.

Add in 12-0 and 18-0 runs in short succession and within 10 minutes of game time, NC State had the game essentially under wraps.

“We played well,” said NC State coach Kevin Keatts. “I thought we shared the basketball well and that we came out aggressive. Defensively, we were sharp and we understood the scouting reports. Our defense kind of anchored us and led to some easy baskets.”

The Wolfpack forced 13 turnovers, converting them into 18 points, and held the Seminoles to 48% from the field and 30% from beyond the arc.

“That was one of the better defensive teams that we’ve played against all year,” said Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton. “Tonight, I thought they made us uncomfortable from the beginning. They were extremely active, overplaying and pressuring the ball and that really kept us out of sync for really the whole first half.”

The highest the margin ever got was 33 in the Wolfpack’s favor and the lowest it got after the two big runs was 17.

“It’s a lot easier to coach up 30 than down 30, I can tell you that,” Keatts said. “But it is still tough. Keeping guys focused and everything else.”

NC State did perhaps think that the game was done and dusted after 15 minutes, as the Wolfpack started to play a bit sloppy and force shots, leading to a few smaller Florida State runs, but the they refocused and tightened their game back up in the second half.

“We started driving the ball,” Keatts said on the second big push by his team. “That was our game plan. I give them credit because we had to make adjustments.”

It was also yet another big game for Smith, who shot 60% from beyond the arc as well. His 32 points led the way for the Wolfpack. 

Near the end of the first half however, Smith suffered through some of the same lapses as the rest of the team, but unlike everyone else, Keatts pulled Smith for the final minutes.

“I coached him,” Keatts said to describe the interaction. “That kid’s been with me a while and he trusts me. I didn’t like a couple of things he did, and he allowed me to coach him and jump on him, and he responded in the second half.”

Smith picked up 16 points in the second half, but while most of his points in the first half came from 3s, his second-half points consisted mostly of him driving through the paint.

“One of the things I told [Smith] was to stop driving, looking for fouls,” Keatts said. “Drive to score and if you get a foul, that’ll be OK.”

The Wolfpack’s other three scoring starters also all finished with double-digit points: DJ Burns with 14, Jarkel Joiner with 14 and Casey Morsell 10.

“We’re a really good team when everybody’s contributing and when it’s spread throughout everybody,” Keatts said.

The Wolfpack are also perhaps a really good team when they can have that much success from beyond the 3-point-line.

“I always tell people, sometimes it’s hard to shoot 60% from 3 when you’re in the gym by yourself with no defense,” Hamilton said. “It just shows that they have a unique ability to create off the bounce and be accurate. They had one of those nights where their schemes and their abilities matched.”

The Wolfpack will host Georgia Tech on Saturday afternoon.