Sidney Lowe felt good enough about Farnold Degand to put him in the starting lineup. Degand's knee felt good enough to blow by visiting Catwaba College.
"I felt really good today when I was pushing the ball, when I was dribbling," Degand said. "I felt under control – when I did a little stop and go hesitation move and made a lay-up that's when I really felt like I was coming back to my own and starting to do things I used to do."
Degand, coming off surgery to repair a torn ACL, showed off his old quickness on his way to leading the Pack with a team-high 15 points. As a team the Wolfpack was far from perfect but the game was never in doubt as the Pack physically dominated Catawba on its way to an 85-61 win on Tuesday night at Reynolds Coliseum.
"I thought we played a solid game," coach Sidney Lowe said. "I thought our defense was good for the most part, it enabled us to get some runs. Offensively we moved the ball around real well and had a couple of guys make some shots."
The win closes out exhibition play for the Wolfpack, who beat Fort Valley State last Thursday in its other exhibition game. The Pack will open regular season play looking for a little revenge as it faces New Orleans on the road, a team that upset the Pack early last season at the RBC Center. NC State hasn't opened on the road since 1997 and hasn't opened at an opponents home court since 1990.
"Me personally I don't mind going on the road," Degand said. "I like going to other people's places and just take their territory for a second then give it back to them after we are done with it."
Lowe used a 10-man rotation for most of the game, one that included every scholarship player except Johnny Thomas and Julius Mays. The third-year coach played his starting five for the first five minutes then rotated all other five players at once. From there he mixed and matched the line-up, with Degand and Gonzalez handling all of the point guard duties but all 10 players receiving at least 10 minutes of action as Lowe tries to push tempo more this season.
"That's how we play, that's who we are this year," Brandon Costner said. "Nobody is taking any plays off so we are going to need fresh bodies. Nobody can sustain the kind of energy we are putting out every play so might as well get used to it. That's what's going to happen."
Degand led a balanced scoring attack on a near-perfect 7-of-8 shooting as five players reached double figures. Costner and Tracey Smith each had 14 points while Courtney Fells and Ben McCauley finished with 10 a piece. Smith, who saw increased playing time towards the end of last season, was one of three players with six rebounds.
"Coach Lowe told me I did pretty good at the end of the season," Smith said. "He told me to keep it up, step it up a little too this season so that's what I'm trying to do. Show him I can step up."
The Pack got out to a quick start offensively, led by Degand's play at the point. The junior led the team in the first half with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field. But it was a sloppy half for the most part, with the Pack jumping out to a 25-10 lead but only managing to maintain that margin the rest of the half before going to the locker room with the score 43-28. The Pack had more turnover than Catawba in the half by an eight to seven margin but managed to break 40 thanks to a 53 percent shooting percentage.
The Indians got the lead all the way down to 10 early in the second half as a sloppy Wolfpack team gave away possessions with turnovers and poor shot selection. But the Pack broke out of its lull midway through the half and cruised from there, but Lowe remained displeased with the effort out of the locker room.
"We gave up a play too easy and allowed them to get in it and you can't come out that way," Lowe said. "You can't come out of the locker room [like that] – it's 0-0 is the score. You have to try to establish yourself once again knowing that team is going to come out even tougher. I wasn't pleased with out effort when we first came out but I was very pleased with the way we reacted."