RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Dennis Smith Jr. and North Carolina State certainly proved they know how to respond to a loss. Coach Mark Gottfried hopes to see his Wolfpack keep that lesson with them, too.
Smith had 27 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds for the second triple-double in program history, and N.C. State rode a dominant first-half performance to a 104-78 victory over No. 21 Virginia Tech on Wednesday night.
The Wolfpack (12-3, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) quickly put on a pedal-to-the-floor show of hot shooting and sharp execution through those first 20 minutes. N.C. State shot nearly 70 percent (23 of 33) and led 55-30 by halftime on the way to the school’s first 100-point outing since 2004.
It was a different look for a team that lost by 18 at Miami on Saturday in its ACC opener.
“I feel like everybody was embarrassed. That was an embarrassing loss,” Smith said. “I don’t think anybody could sleep easy that night. So we came into practice and went hard and it showed in the game.”
Smith, the Wolfpack’s star freshman point guard, joined former Wolfpack great Julius Hodge as the only players to post a triple-double in school history. Hodge did it against North Carolina A&T in 2002.
Smith had plenty of help as the Wolfpack romped. N.C. State shot 64 percent against a defense that had allowed only three teams to reach 45 percent and none to hit 50 percent.
“We took our ‘cool’ jacket off,” Gottfried said. “I thought we played better, tougher, stronger, played more together and we ended up playing pretty well. And that was important for us.”
Ahmed Hill scored 17 points for Virginia Tech (12-2, 1-1), which was coming off a home win against then-No. 5 Duke that pushed the Hokies into the AP Top 25 for the first time since November 2010. But just about everything went wrong Wednesday, down to 6-foot-10 freshman starter Khadim Sy sitting out after rolling an ankle during the afternoon shootaround.
“I thought the plan was right,” Hokies coach Buzz Williams said. “The execution was obviously near to zero. I just thought the mentality relative to the execution was bad from the start, and it trended toward being too individualistic on both ends of the floor. And we’re not good enough to play that sort of game.”
Virginia Tech: Perhaps the most alarming part of the first half was the Hokies’ defensive struggles. Too often N.C. State players got to the rim and encountered no last-line defense, at times threatening to turn this into a dunking display for a thrilled home crowd. In one play that illustrated those troubles, Wolfpack center BeeJay Anya (6-foot-9, 320 pounds) had time to back down a defender from near the elbow to deep in the paint for a hook shot with nary a rotation from a help defender.
“We were way too flat. We were playing below our man,” Williams said. “And whether it was off the pass or the bounce, when the ball got to the paint, our rotation was bad.”
N.C. STATE: The Wolfpack’s young roster got a rough introduction to league play at Miami, but this was a reminder of what that potential-filled group can do when it’s on. In addition to Smith’s triple-double, Terry Henderson (17 of his 22 points before halftime) got loose early and Abdul-Malik Abu added 20 points and 11 rebounds.
“We spent the past two days competing in practice,” Henderson said, “making sure what happened in Miami stayed down there.”
Williams said guard Seth Allen was evaluated for a concussion at halftime after a collision, then said he sent him back to the locker room in the second half for further evaluation.
“That type of stuff scares me,” Williams said, adding he’s “just a little overprotective on that sort of thing.”
Virginia Tech: The Hokies visit No. 12 Florida State on Saturday.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack visit No. 14 North Carolina on Saturday in the next meeting between the longtime rivals.