It would have been understandable if the Wolfpack had a few jitters going into its opener. Being ranked No. 6 in the country, being picked to win the ACC – there had been a ton of expectations piled on top of a team that had yet to play a single minute of real basketball. At the very least, the freshman trio would struggle in its first game in front of a crowd that size.
"We kept hearing that tickets were sold out... that kind of got us a little anxious," Lorenzo Brown admitted after the game.
But C.J. Leslie quickly set the tone from the Pack - a steal, dunk and block within the first 90 seconds of action – and the team was off to the races from there. It was a night where everyone, from Leslie down to the walk-ons, got to show off. Six players scored in double figures in the game but no one topped 16 as the Pack spread the wealth.
"I think they all did a lot of things well," Gottfried said. "I liked our interior passing... Richard and Calvin kind of set the tone and played very unselfishly."
In the blink of an eye the lead was double-digits, then almost 20 points by halftime and hit 40 at one point towards the end of the game. It was a beat-down in every sense of the word, a game more about how the Pack looked than what the final scored showed – and the Pack looked impressive.
"We've got a bulls-eye on our back. We're No. 6 in the country and we've got to play like that." Freshman Rodney Purvis said.
Leslie was relatively quiet in the scoring column on a night when his scoring wasn't needed by the Pack, but the junior had eight rebounds and three blocks. Brown did the kind of things that show why he's the Pack's most important player, breaking down defenses for buckets or passing off to his teammates. He finished with a quintessential Lorenzo Brown line – 15 points, seven assists and six re bounds.
All three freshmen got to show pieces of what them such a highly-touted recruiting class. Purvis hit 3-of-5 from behind the arc (including one four-point play) and could be the much-needed second shooter behind Scott Wood. T.J. Warren, who Gottfried calls his sixth starter, came off the bench and scored eight points. Tyler Lewis added six assists off the bench – including a behind-the-back pass that brought the crowd to its feet in the second half.
"I just had to get [the behind-the-back pass] out of my system," Lew is said. "This first game, why not? If coach Gottfried gets mad at me for it - it's the first game."
No, it was not a perfect game. There were things you could nitpick – Brown's carelessness with the ball at times, the Pack leaving shooters open on the outside. But on opening night, the Pack gave everyone a glimpse of the ceiling for this team - and its a very high ceiling.