Smith returns as Pack downs Toreros 76-54

RALEIGH, NC -- Tracy Smith returned for NC State after a 10-game absence, leading the way with 16 points in a 76-54 win over San Diego on Saturday afternoon at the RBC Center.

The loudest cheer in the RBC Center on Saturday afternoon didn't come from a thunderous dunk or a deep 3-pointer. No, the loudest cheer came with the clock stopped.

That was when Tracy Smith checked into the game, the senior leader returning from a 10-game absence after having knee surgery in late November. Smith came in at the 15:12 mark of the first half to roaring approval from the crowd, and it didn't take long for the big man to get right back into the action.

"I was excited – one of those moments," Smith said. "I just got back and I've been anxious to get back. They needed me and I just went out and did what I do best."

Smith led the way with a game-high 16 points in his return as the Pack rolled over San Diego 76-54 on Saturday afternoon at the RBC Center. The Pack now has one more tune-up game against Elon before diving into ACC play next weekend.

"We are really starting to click as a team – we are playing together, helping each other on defense, picking each other up when we are down," sophomore Richard Howell said.

Smith played 25 minutes in his first game back in action and so little ill effects from his time off. The senior, who had been cleared to play by doctors earlier in December, said he wanted to wait until he was pain-free before returning to the court.

"I didn't want to rush it – go out and re-injure it and be out another six weeks," Smith said. "So I went out when I was comfortable and didn't have any pain pushing off or landing on my left leg. I just wanted to play it safe."

San Diego shot just 34 percent on the day and hit only 5-of-17 from behind the arc. The Pack also limited their second-chance opportunities by giving up just nine offensive rebounds on 39 misses. The home team shot over 50 percent for the second-straight game, hitting 55 percent from the field on its way to the win.

Three other players scored in double figures for the Pack as Lorenzo Brown added 14 points and Ryan Harrow scored 12. Howell turned in a stellar line of 13 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and two steals. The rebounds and assists were both career highs and game highs for the Pack.

"He's been good," Lowe said. "Rebounding the basketball – he was in there today sometimes by himself going up over three guys and getting it. Passing the ball, he's been active offensively."

The Pack came out in the first half and played its best 20 minutes of basketball in several weeks. They Pack forced misses, didn't allow offensive rebounds, took easy shots and ran the floor. The result was a 56 percent shooting performance and a 43-25 halftime lead.

Smith led the way in the opening half despite just 12 minutes on the court. He hit 5-of-9 from the floor for 12 points while Howell did the rebounding work with 10 rebounds in the half to go with his six points.

"I loved the first half – we were playing defense, we were rebounding," Howell said. "Everything that we could have done we did it and we made few mistakes. We may not be able to play a perfect game but that's what we try to do and in the first half it was working."

The second half wasn't as well executed by the Pack, but they never allowed the visiting Toreros to chip away at the lead. The Pack has now won back-to-back games by comfortable margins, a trend that Lowe wants to see the team continue before going into ACC play against Wake Forest.

"Look at the results of you coming out this way and playing this way," Lowe said. "This is how we have to play if we want to win. This is two times now lets see if we can make it three and we build from there."

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