RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina State big man Wyatt Walker figures the Wolfpack’s start has been about “playing against the game of basketball” to prepare the team for tougher games ahead.
That’s probably the only way to look at it, considering the overmatched opponents on the schedule so far are doing little to make the Wolfpack even a little uncomfortable.
Torin Dorn scored 15 points to help N.C. State beat Maine 82-63 on Saturday, a lower-scoring output and victory margin from recent romps but another easy win nonetheless.
C.J. Bryce added 14 points for the Wolfpack (4-0), who had outscored the first three opponents 300-153. On Saturday, N.C. State scored the game’s first 15 points and maintained a comfortable margin the rest of the afternoon, leading 48-24 at the break.
And it begs the question: Are these easy wins doing much to prepare the Wolfpack for games such as a Nov. 27 trip to Wisconsin in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and a December visit from ninth-ranked Auburn?
“It’s hard to tell right now,” Bryce said. “We’re not really playing against our opponent right now. We’re trying to look at it as we’re playing against Duke, playing against (North) Carolina, playing against the bigger schools, and not really playing down to our competition.”
That’s where Walker’s assessment comes in.
“We’re always playing against ourselves, playing against the game of basketball,” the graduate transfer from Samford said. “You do have an opponent up there and a score and stuff like that, but there’s things you can do.
“If you’re winning, up by 30 or 40 points, and you’re getting beat on backdoor cuts or you’re giving up offensive rebounds, those translate into a game where you might be tied or down some.”
Andrew Fleming scored 19 points to lead the Black Bears (0-4), who had 18 turnovers that led to 27 points for the Wolfpack.
“The start to the game was one of the things we’ve got to get a lot better at,” Maine coach Richard Barron said. “I don’t think we were executing our gameplan very well starting out. We also missed some shots, they hit some and those things against a good team can snowball on you pretty fast.”
Maine: The America East program is in six-game road stretch to open the season, and had lost by 13 at Denver, 14 at Utah and 43 at San Francisco entering this game. The good news Saturday was that, after falling in the quick 15-0 hole, the Black Bears played relatively even the rest of the afternoon. And Maine shot 64 percent after halftime to finish at 55 percent for the game.
N.C. State: The victory margins sure look nice. N.C. State beat Mount St. Mary’s by 50 points in the opener, then beat Maryland-Eastern Shore by 46 and finally UNC Asheville by 51 on Tuesday night. Throw in Maine, and the Wolfpack’s first four opponents entered Saturday with an average national rank of No. 322.25 according to KenPom.
N.C. State’s Markell Johnson also scored 13 points and showed no ill effects after being helped off the court following a hard blindside backcourt pick early in Tuesday’s win against UNC Asheville. He hit a 3-pointer for the Wolfpack’s first basket, one of four on a day that included a four-point play.
It was a familiar red-clad location for Barron, the first-year Black Bears coach who had coached the Maine women’s program from 2011-17 before taking a medical leave. He was an assistant coach for the Wolfpack women’s team from 2009-11.
“I’ve got family at the game, so there’s definitely a familiar feel to it,” Barron said. “It’s just the colors are different. Wearing blue at an N.C. State game is a little different for me, but everything else is great.”
Maine: The Black Bears visit North Texas on Tuesday.
N.C. State: St. Peter’s visits the Wolfpack on Tuesday.
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