NC State gears up for ACC opener by rolling past William & Mary

Ethan Hyman/ehyman@newsobserver.com

N.C. State isn’t a part of the 2022 ACC/Big Ten Challenge, having lost too many ACC games last season and being left out.

But the Pack isn’t sitting idly on the sideline this week, watching the games on ESPN and wishing it was in it.

The challenge Tuesday was to beat William & Mary and better prepare for the start of this year’s ACC play, and the Wolfpack did that with an 85-64 victory at PNC Arena.

There were some highlights worthy of an ESPN replay. On one second-half play, the Pack’s Jarkel Joiner chased after a loose ball and flipped it back to Casey Morsell in front of the NCSU bench as he went tumbling out of bounds.

Morsell, who had a game-high 23 points, knocked down a 3-pointer, the referee raising both arms not far from where Joiner’s upraised legs could be seen on the far side of the scorer’s table -- quite the sight.

The Wolfpack (7-1) shared the ball -- Terquavion Smith had seven assists and Joiner 6. The balance also was there: five players finished in double figures as Smith had 13 points, Jack Clark and Dusan Mahorcic 12 each and Joiner 11.

The Tribe (3-5) made the Pack work much the opening half before a late 13-4 spurt by N.C. State led to a 43-28 lead at the break – that after a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by the Tribe’s Chris Mullins.

After winning two of three games in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas, the Wolfpack was back on its home floor, where it will host Pittsburgh on Friday in its ACC opener.

The game Tuesday began on a nice note for the Pack, center D.J. Burns, Jr. getting a pass low in the post and then kicking the ball out to Smith for a 3. Good decision and pass by Burns, good shot by Smith and the Wolfpack was on its way.

Joiner ran the offense, Smith looked for openings and didn’t hold back on 3’s, and Morsell played another in-control, steady game, getting open looks and knocking down shots.

Early in the second half, Morsell drained a 3 from the left corner, drew a foul and converted it into a 4-point play and 51-32 lead. Later came the Joiner save.

That three-man combination worked well in the Bahamas and Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts will count it working in ACC competition.

Keatts probably would like to see Smith shooting the ball better. The sophomore was 13-of-41 from the field in the three Battle 4 Atlantis games, going 6-for-19 on 3-pointers.

After making his first 3 Tuesday, Smith kept firing away and made a 22-footer from the key for a 28-20 lead. But he also was fouled on a 3 and missed two of three at the line – that kind of night.

One shooting plus for the Pack: junior forward Greg Gantt popped in a 3-pointer in the second half for his first career points.

Pitt (6-3) went to Northwestern and rolled to an 87-58 victory in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which is coming to an end. The Panthers were 14-of-22 on 3-pointers and had five players in double figures, led by Blake Hinson’s 22 points.