Pack pounds Eagles, 75-57

RALEIGH -- Playing in its annual game at historic Reynolds Coliseum, NC State dispatched visiting Georgia Southern 75-57 on Saturday afternoon. Tracy Smith led the Pack with 21 points.

Once again NC State struggled to find its offense in the first half only to break out in the final 20 minutes. Playing in its annual December game at Reynolds Coliseum, the Wolfpack never trailed or lost control of the game but never looked comfortable offensively in the first half against Georgia Southern pressuring zone defense.

"We were telling them to look inside," head coach Sidney Lowe said. "There is just something about when people go zone there is a tendency for guards not to look inside. We have said it for years – you can still go inside against a zone."

Going inside worked well in the second half, and for the second straight game the Pack (7-1) put up second-half shooting percentage of over 70 percent. For the game the team shot 65 percent, tying a season best set against Akron earlier in the year and propelling the Pack past the visiting Eagles 75-57 on Saturday afternoon.

The Pack played without starting point guard Javi Gonzalez, who is nursing a sore hamstring and has been limited in practice the past week. Gonzalez currently leads the ACC in assists per game with 6.6 a contest and is one of three players averaging double figures for the Pack with a 10.4 points per game output. Lowe said he hopes the hamstring doesn't become a lingering issue for the guard.

"I hope its not a long term [issue]," Lowe said. "I dealt with that once before with a starting guard with Engin and I hope its not that situation again. I hope he's back for Thursday."

Five Wolfpack players scored in double figures on the afternoon, led by Smith's 21 points and seven rebounds. Dennis Horner also delivered a terrific all-around game with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the floor while grabbing nine boards and dishing out six assists. Julius Mays added 11 points while CJ Williams scored 10 points and had five assists. Energetic freshman Josh Davis set a career high with his 10 points.

"My team was real happy with how I played, my coaches were - so that's just motivation to keep doing it every game," Davis said.

The Pack opened the game with a quick 9-2 run, but the offense quickly stagnated as Georgia Southern's zone defense forced the home team to work deep the clock to get shots. The Pack managed to shoot 56 percent from the floor thanks to plenty of lay-ups and dunks, but hit just 2-of-8 from behind the line and turned the ball over eight times. The Eagles shot just 32 percent and were 0-for-7 from 3-point range but stayed within single digits most of the half thanks to just three turnovers and eight offensive rebounds.

Lowe got a scare when Julius Mays went down early in the half with a leg injury, leaving Farnold Degand as the only healthy point guard on the roster. Mays returned later in the half, but appeared to still be in some pain. Horner led the Pack in the half with eight points and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the floor to help the Pack build a 31-20 lead heading into the locker room.

"His leadership, his confidence, his mindset – he's strictly about the team and about winning," Lowe said of Horner. "So he's playing free. We need him to play that way, we count on him to do that and he's playing great for us."

The Pack came out of the half and went on an offensive flurry, opening with an 11-0 run that quickly made it a 20-point advantage. But the Eagles stormed back behind their pressure defense, cutting the lead to as little as nine points before Lowe was forced to call a timeout and rally his team.

"We had some guys come in and start throwing the ball all around and they made their run," Mays said. "But when we played smart we pushed the lead back out."

The timeout worked, as the Pack pulled back out in front behind a series of dunks from Davis and a couple of 3-pointers from Mays. The Pack offense ended up scoring 44 points in the half and shooting over 73 percent. The Pack will go back to the RBC Center on Thursday night to take on visiting Elon. From there the Pack has a rare December ACC game, traveling to Wake Forest to open league play on Sunday evening.

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