North Carolina State lived up to its preseason hype - at least for one game. Now the sixth-ranked Wolfpack will have a chance to test their mix of talented freshmen and veterans on the bigger stage of an in-season tournament.
N.C. State meets Penn State on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
The preseason pick to win the ACC, the Wolfpack (1-0) easily took care of Miami (Ohio) at home on Friday, winning 97-59. It was their highest point total since a 99-44 win against Campbell on Nov. 26, 2004.
Six N.C. State players scored in double figures while the team shot 61.4 percent from the floor, thanks in part to a 31-8 advantage in fast-break points.
"They've got a lot of confidence, they want to become a good team, they're excited about playing," second-year coach Mark Gottfried said. "I don't think our guys are all that caught up in all (the expectations). I think it's fun and nice, and I think they've enjoyed it. But I think that - especially the four guys that have played here - they've been down the road here. They understand if you don't play, you're going to get beat."
Gottfried's rotation is a combination of promising recruits and four returning starters from a team that finished 24-13 and went to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament last season.
Three freshmen who were named McDonald's All-Americans - Rodney Purvis, Tyler Lewis and T.J. Warren - combined for 30 points in Friday's win, with Purvis scoring 16 in a starting role. The returning starters - Richard Howell, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood and preseason ACC player of the year C.J. Leslie - totaled 52.
"We're always around each other and I think it's that trust that we build between one another that helps us out on the court, and off the court as well," Brown said. "It's just like last year. I mean, it's just this team is a lot more talented than we were last year."
Much of the star power for Penn State (1-0) lies in one player: Tim Frazier.
The Big Ten's top returning scorer (18.8 points per game) and assist man (6.2) didn't disappoint in the Nittany Lions' opener, posting 23 points and six assists in Friday's 65-58 win against St. Francis (Pa.). But Penn State needed 39 minutes from Frazier against a team picked to finish last in the Northeast Conference, and coach Patrick Chambers would like to put less pressure on the senior.
"I don't want to rely on that every night," Chambers said. "That's a lot of weight on one man's shoulders. And he's only 22."
Penn State hopes Frazier's backcourt mate can help. D.J. Newbill averaged 9.2 points two seasons ago as a freshman at Southern Mississippi before transferring, and scored 16 in his Penn State debut Friday.
His 3-point shooting will need to improve after he was 1 of 7 as part of the Nittany Lions' woeful 3-for-24 performance from beyond the arc. Frazier and Newbill combined to go 26 of 28 from the free-throw line.
N.C. State leads the all-time series 15-3, including an 84-76 home win in the most recent meeting in 2000.
The winner will play Friday against the Providence-Massachusetts winner, with the championship game slated for Sunday.
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