With conference play looming NC State is starting to find its mojo and it starts at the point.
Led by 19 points and 16 assists from Dennis Smith Jr., the Wolfpack pummeled Rider 99-71 at PNC Arena to conclude its non-conference season 11-2. NC State will travel to Miami on New Year's Eve in its ACC opener.
Abdul-Malik Abu also posted his 19th career double-double. The junior scored 12 points and hauled in 12 rebounds. NC State had six players score in double figures and freshman Ted Kapita finished with 11 boards.
"We had six guys in double figures with 25 assists on 40 baskets," NC State head coach Mark Gottfried said. "I thought, defensively, we did a pretty good job most of the night. Dennis, obviously, was terrific sharing the basket. He sets the tone passing the basketball for us. It was a good team win."
Rider scored the first four points of the game. After that, it was all NC State.
The Wolfpack dominated in all fashions, shooting 55.6 percent from the floor and making 81.3 percent of its free throw attempts. NC State also outrebounds the MAAC school 50-35.
It was Smith, however, who stole the show.
The freshman guard dazzled teammates and fans alike with an array of shots and passes, including a one-handed, tomahawk dunk that left most of the people in the arena shaking their heads. His 16 assists were a PNC Arena record and the most by a NC State player since Chris Corchiani also had 16 against Florida State in December, 1989.
"It makes the game easier for everybody," Smith said of his assist total. "They always find themselves open and I have to find them more often. They made shots, and that was a major key. We have a great team.
"Me getting 16 assists, I can't get that shooting the ball. We have a great team and they made shots."
NC State used a 15-4 run to open up a 24-12 lead with 7:15 remaining in the first half. Rider never cut the lead to single digits. The Wolfpack led by 15 at halftime.
The advantage grew methodically over the course of the second half. The Wolfpack shot 60.8 percent from the floor and scored a season-best 59 points after intermission to cruise to the victory.
"For us I think the most important thing is to keep moving in the right direction," Gottfried said. "I do think our team has improved. We've gotten better and we need to get ourselves in the best possible place to start ACC play.