It wasn't the best of starts for the Wolfpack, as they didn't push the lead to double figures until late in the first half, but after that push it was all over for the Falcons tonight at the RBC Center.
The Wolfpack entered halftime with a 44-31 lead, and there were several bright spots. Point guard Tony Bethel had 10 points and 8 rebounds at the break while shooting guard Engin Atsur had recorded six steals. The Wolfpack also shot a combined 15-16 from the free throw stripe, just days after connecting on 15 of 31 attempts against Fayetteville State.
With that, there was also a few first half concerns for Herb Sendek and his crew. The Wolfpack gave up 25 total rebounds with 16 coming on the offensive end. The Falcons attempted 12 more shots than NC State as a result, and despite shooting just 34.1%, they were down only 13 at the break.
The Wolfpack came out in the second half playing on the defensive end as they did a week ago against Fayetteville State. They defended with relentless agression, keyed specifically by freshman Andrew Brackman. Brackman, also called 'Raleigh's Most Wanted' by Julius Hodge, flashed surprising athleticism and relentless hustle, recording four points on two huge dunks, seven rebounds, and five blocks in the second half.
"I can think of four blocks that Andrew Brackman had and two of those were absolutely crazy," Wolfpack forward Ilian Evtimov said. "He's doing all the little things on top of that. He's playing hard, he's running the court, he rebounds offensively, and he's playing great for us."
The other freshmen, Gavin Grant and Cedric Simmons, also contributed strong efforts. Grant added 13 points (9-10 free throws), four rebounds, and four assists while playing point guard for the final seven minutes of the game. Simmons had eight points and two blocks in just 13 minutes of action.
The Wolfpack also welcomed back a familiar face, as red-shirt junior Ilian Evtimov played fourteen minutes after missing the opening exhibition game due to a knee injury. Evtimov looked comfortable, recording four points, three rebounds, and four assists in 14 minutes of action.
"Honestly, I did not know what to expect [from Ilian]," coach Sendek said. "I stopped trying to anticipate because we kept getting new information that changed expectations. I let it go and was determined to welcome him back when he was ready to go. I think he went an hour yesterday and we were prepared to play him twenty minutes, but he played 14 minutes. After the TV timeout we decided to ice him down."
NC State outscored the Falcons 52-24 in the second half, while shooting 60.1% from the field. St. Augustine's shot just 21% from the field in the half, and connected on just 27.8% of their shots on the night. NC State shot 53% from the field for the game.
As expected, senior Julius Hodge led the Wolfpack in scoring with 15 points. Four other players scored in double figures, with Grant adding 13, center Jordan Collins had 12, guard Cameron Bennerman also finished with 12, and Bethel chipped in 10 points.
Former Enloe (NC) High star Allen Lovett led the Falcons with 18 points. The Falcons bothered NC State on the glass all night long, recording 27 offensive rebounds and 47 total rebounds for the night.
"We did a poor job on the backboards tonight, and it's something we've been emphasizing in practice," coach Sendek said. "They really took it to us on the offensive glass.
"We just didn't protect the paint the way that we needed to. We got whistled for some fouls that we didn't need to commit. We just allowed ourselves to get too isolated, and we've got to do a much better job of helping each other. I think the guys' effort was pretty good, but we've got to tighten some things up there."
NC State officially begins the season next Wednesday night at the RBC Center in the BCA Invitational.