Tracy Smith had 16 points in his return from knee surgery to help North Carolina State beat San Diego 76-54 on Saturday.
Lorenzo Brown added 14 points for the Wolfpack (9-4), who closed a six-game homestand with an easy victory. N.C. State scored the first eight points, led by 22 in the first half and pushed that to as many as 29 points after halftime.
N.C. State won five games during the homestand, but Smith's return was probably the biggest success of that stretch. The preseason all-Atlantic Coast Conference pick had missed 10 straight games while recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, robbing Sidney Lowe's team of a reliable post scorer who operates at the center of the Wolfpack's offense.
Smith didn't start, but he looked close to full speed against the Toreros (3-11) and eager to make up for lost time.
The 6-foot-8 forward jumped up and ripped off his warmup shirt when starter DeShawn Painter picked up his second foul at the 15:12 mark. Smith jogged to the scorer's table and almost immediately walked onto the court before referee Les Jones stopped him long enough for San Diego's Darian Norris to shoot the first of two free throws.
Smith squatted down at the table with a smile, then replaced Painter a few seconds later to a standing ovation from fans.
On his first play, he took a feed in the post, turned to the middle and put up a shot while drawing contact from Chris Manresa. The whistle blew, the shot dropped and Smith started walking to the foul line with a few pumps of his right fist. Across the court, junior reserve C.J. Williams celebrated by jumping and waving a towel as the ball dropped through the net.
The rest of the half, Smith looked mostly like his old self, scoring on close-in putaways or throwing down dunks set up by penetration from his teammates. He finished 7-for-12 from the field, though there were a few signs of rust, too. He missed some shots in the paint that he typically made last season and he had just two rebounds in 25 minutes.
The Wolfpack shot 55 percent, while San Diego shot just 34 percent and never threatened any kind of upset. N.C. State essentially put the game away with a 9-0 spurt midway through the first half — highlighted by Smith throwing down a two-handed dunk over Dennis Kramer — that gave it a 37-15 lead on Brown's 3-pointer with 3:43 left before the break.
The Toreros got no closer than 18 points the rest of the way.
Devin Ginty scored 10 points to lead San Diego.