Tracy Smith scored 23 points to help North Carolina State beat Wake Forest 90-69 on Saturday in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams.
Freshman C.J. Leslie added 19 points as the Wolfpack (11-4, 1-0) won an ACC opener for the first time under fifth-year coach Sidney Lowe. N.C. State scored the game's first six points and led the entire day, dominating in the paint and on the boards to win its sixth straight against the Demon Deacons (7-9, 0-1) in Raleigh.
N.C. State led by just four early in the second half, but ran off nine straight points to push the margin back up to double figures. The lead only grew from there, reaching as many as 29 points late in an impressive second-half performance for a team waiting for its breakout year in the league.
As for the Demon Deacons, it was a rough league debut for first-year coach Jeff Bzdelik.
Wake Forest hung tough for about 25 minutes, but ended up matching the loss to VCU — by an identical score — as its in November for its worst loss this year.
N.C. State shot 58 percent after halftime and steadily increased the lead in the final 8 minutes. The Wolfpack's biggest lead came when reserve C.J. Williams threw down a transition dunk off a turnover to make it 90-61 with 2:03 left.
Williams matched his career-high with 16 points to go with seven rebounds, an area where the Wolfpack dominated the Demon Deacons. Led by Smith (11 rebounds), N.C. State took a 47-22 edge on the boards and turned 20 offensive rebounds into 25 second-chance points.
The Wolfpack also nearly doubled the Demon Deacons on points in the paint (46-24).
It marked the first time N.C. State had opened ACC play at home under Lowe, with its last league opener here coming in Herb Sendek's final season in 2006. In the past four years, Lowe's teams hadn't shown much offensive punch in those openers, scoring 62 points in both of the first two games followed by 51 and 59 the next two seasons.
This time, however, the Wolfpack had 40 points by halftime, cracked that 62-point barrier with nearly 9½ minutes left and finished with a season-high scoring output.
After a 4-minute scoring drought that helped the Demon Deacons pull within a point, the Wolfpack answered by running off the last eight points of the first half. That ended with Ryan Harrow's driving layup past C.J. Harris just before the horn for the 40-30 lead at the break.
Wake Forest opened the second half with six straight points in what turned out to be its final gasp, but the Wolfpack came right back with a 9-0 run before Lorenzo Brown's alley-oop pass to Leslie for a dunk made it 51-38 with 14:13 left.
From there, the lead would only grow.
Gary Clark scored 13 points to lead Wake Forest.