RALEIGH, N.C. -- Sixth-ranked North Carolina State got the fast start it wanted in a season of lofty expectations.
Richard Howell had 16 points and 10 rebounds to help the Wolfpack beat Miami (Ohio) 97-59 on Friday night in the opener for both teams.Lorenzo Brown added 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists for N.C. State, which scored the game's first 10 points and led by 19 at halftime en route to an easy win.N.C. State did nothing to diminish fan excitement that had built since being named the preseason Atlantic Coast Conference favorite for the first time in nearly four decades. The players constantly got out in transition. They shared the basketball. They had plenty of balance with six players in double figures and even flirted with the program's first 100-point output in eight years.N.C. State shot 61 percent and led by 43 points. The RedHawks, playing their first game under new coach John Cooper, got no closer than 16 after halftime."We've just been super ready," said freshman Rodney Purvis, who started and scored 16 points. "Every day we talked about it. We practiced super-duper hard. We drilled super hard. We do everything as a team. We're just a huge family and we were just ready to step out on the court tonight."N.C. State's veterans took charge in this one. While Howell and Brown had big games, preseason ACC player of the year C.J. Leslie added 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. In fact, the trio was outscoring the RedHawks entire team until midway through the second half.The No. 6 ranking -- the program's highest since December 1983 -- marked a stunningly fast rise for the Wolfpack under second-year coach Mark Gottfried, who inherited a program that hadn't been to the NCAA tournament since 2006. Gottfried led N.C. State to 24 wins and took eventual finalist Kansas to the final seconds in a loss in last year's NCAA round of 16, ending the program's winningest season since 1988.Now, with four returning starters and a heralded recruiting class, it's N.C. State -- not nearby heavyweights Duke or North Carolina -- that enters the season as the top target in the ACC. And that means the challenge of playing through higher expectations.It was no coincidence this was the first sellout for a Wolfpack season opener since 1999 against Georgia, which was also the first game in the PNC Arena."They're like every team," Gottfried said. "They've got a lot of confidence, they want to become a good team, they're excited about playing. I don't think our guys are all that caught up in all (the expectations). I think it's fun and nice, and I think they've enjoyed it. But I think that -- especially the four guys that have played here -- they've been down the road here. They understand if you don't play, you're going to get beat."With Brown and later freshman Tyler Lewis pushing the tempo, N.C. State took a 31-8 edge in fast break points -- including when Lewis threw a behind-the-back pass to fellow freshman T.J. Warren on the break for a second-half layup as the Wolfpack turned it into a romp.N.C. State finished with 23 assists on 35 field goals."We're always around each other and I think it's that trust that we build between one another that helps us out on the court, and off the court as well," Brown said. "It's just like last year. I mean, it's just this team is a lot more talented than we were last year."Senior Scott Wood finished with 10 points, while Warren had eight points and three rebounds. Lewis had six points and six assists.N.C. State jumped out to a 10-0 lead, ending the spurt with a 3-pointer from Wood. Then the Wolfpack broke off a 12-2 run ending with Brown finding a trailing Howell for a transition layup that sent N.C. State into the locker room with a 41-22 lead.Things got no better after halftime for the RedHawks, who shot 22 percent in the first half and finished at 29 percent."It wasn't the start we wanted," Cooper said. "They got ahead of us and we weren't able to do the things we wanted to do. Once we got behind, it's hard."Allen Roberts scored 16 points to lead Miami.