NC State, who opened up a 15-point lead early last season against Pittsburgh at home, fell behind to begin the game Saturday but then used a 12-0 run to take a, 13-6, lead with less than eight minutes remaining in the first half. The Pack would not trail the rest of the way.
After a double-digit loss against Cincinnati on Tuesday, NC State head coach Mark Gottfried said, “Everything was on the table” and the fourth-year coach made a change to the opening lineup by handing freshman Abdul-Malik Abu his first collegiate start. Abu finished with four points and eight rebounds in 26 minutes of action."
“It is all about toughness,” Abu said. “The ACC is, I think, the best league in the country. You have to go out every game and try to get that win. It is going to take intensity and effort.”
Gottfried was pleased with how his team performed as the Pack opened the conference slate with wins in its first two games for the second time in three seasons.
“I am proud of my team,” Gottfried said. “They responded very well. They are learning. This was a ‘step’ game. We took one step forward. This afternoon I thought we did a lot of things well.”
The Wolfpack was particularly effective in the second half. NC State connected on 16 of its 27 (59.3 percent) shots from the floor, including five-of-eight (62.5 percent) from three-point range.
Lacey played a big part in NC State’s success in the second half. The transfer from Alabama hit seven of his nine shots from the field, including a perfect 5-of-5 from the floor (2-2 from three-point range) after intermission. He only scored six points in the loss to Cincinnati.
“I feel like I was just more aggressive getting to the goal,” Lacey said of his performance against Pitt. “I have been settling a lot for jump shots. When they stopped falling I just kept settling. Today, I was really just determined to get to the goal, get to the line, and do it for a full game.”
The Wolfpack return to action on Wednesday, as NC State travels to No. 3 Virginia to face the defending ACC Champions. It is the beginning of a brutal seven-game stretch for the Pack. Six of the next seven contests are against teams that have been ranked this season.
“It feels good to be on top and it is going to feel better to keep it that way,” Abu said of NC State’s early lead in the ACC standings. “Any game is winnable. People can write us off, everyone has their picks before games but that is not something we have to feed into. We have to stay together as a team, as a family and excel.”