"It was great to have him back on the court with us tonight," Wolfpack head coach Herb Sendek said of Bethel. "Tony has handled a difficult situation incredibly well. He is doing everything he is supposed to do and put himself in position to have this comeback. We knew going into the game that he was only going to play five minutes. We had no intention of playing him beyond that point.
"We decided to start him because after warming up, if we had brought him in after sitting on the bench, it would have been a little more difficult... if he had a chance to cool down. I thought he looked pretty good out there and did some good things."
Bethel exited at the first timeout and was replaced by junior Engin Atsur with the Wolfpack already ahead 11-2.
Bennerman came out on fire, scoring the Wolfpack's first seven points. The 6-foot-4 guard opened the scoring with a jumper in the lane, he then hit a three-pointer from the corner, and scored on another midrange jumper.
NC State had no problems offensively, as the Wolfpack shot 66.7% from the field; while also recording 20 assists on 24 field goals.
Mount Olive, a team picked No. 7 in the 2005-06 Division II Bulletin Preseason Men's Basketball Top 25, started four guards and 6-foot-10 center Antoine Griffin. The Trojans were tenacious defensively and forced the Wolfpack into 20 turnovers. However, the Wolfpack was also able to force 40 Trojan personal fouls by attacking the basket off the dribble and pounding the ball inside.
NC State connected on 41-of-61 free throw attempts, with freshman Ben McCauley and sophomore Gavin Grant connecting on 9-of-13 attempts each.
The Wolfpack moved the ball well on offense and were never threatened by the Trojans. NC State shot 70.6% from the field in the first half while limiting Mt. Olive to 20% on 7-of-35 shooting. With a 46-20 halftime lead and all ten scholarship players playing well, Sendek used different lineups in the second half to "experiment."
All three Pack freshmen were solid, and McCauley was effective in the post. The 6-foot-8 forward finished with 15 points, four rebounds, and two assists in 21 minutes of action. Brandon Costner tallied 12 points, four boards, and two assists and Courtney Fells added five points and a steal.
"They were out there swinging away," Sendek said of his freshmen. "I think all three guys are going to be good in our system. Brandon and Ben both put a few points on the board tonight. Everytime out like this is just good... just good experience."
For the game, NC State had four players in double-figures. Bennerman totaled 18 points, five assists, four rebounds, and two steals in 24 minutes of action. Grant added 16 points and McCauley and Costner tallied 15 and 12 points respectively.
Despite the stellar shooting from the field and overall offensive balance, there were some problems NC State must correct as the season approaches. Mount Olive outrebounded the Wolfpack 39-38, and NC State shot just 67% from the free throw line.
"Mount Olive really played hard," Sendek said. "They competed, and you can see that they really know how to win. They just went after the ball with great tenacity, and we didn't match that. We have to do a better job of blocking out, and we have to do a better job of just going and getting the ball.
"We went to the line for 61 free throw attempts, and the time of the game really approached that of a football game. I wish we would have converted a few more of those free throws, it would have helped us. But I think we really are going to be a good free throw shooting team."
NC State will return to the practice court this week and prepare for next Friday's season opener. The Wolfpack begins its regular season with the three-day Hispanic College Fund Classic November 18-20 at the RBC Center. NC State will face Stetson, The Citadel and Delaware during the tournament.
"We know we have a lot of work to do," Sendek said. "If you're as good as you're going to be in November, you've probably got some problems. It's still early."