Freshman guard Terquavion Smith puts up a quick shot during the game versus the Bucknell Bisons on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021 in PNC Arena. Smith scored 20 points against the Bisons. The Wolfpack beat Bucknell 88-70.

In a tale of two halves, NC State men’s basketball used a dominant second half to take down Bucknell 88-70 in its opening game of the season at PNC Arena Tuesday, Nov. 9.

Things went wrong for a majority of the first half for NC State, but the Wolfpack proved it had fight in it after being battle tested by the inferior Bison early on. Senior forward Jericole Hellems led the team with 22 points, while freshman guard Terquavion Smith shined off the bench in his first career game with 20 points.

“Terquavion Smith is a bucket now,” said NC State head coach Kevin Keatts. “There’s not too many shots that he don’t like.”

Other notable performers for NC State were redshirt sophomore guard Dereon Seabron, who registered a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, and junior guard Casey Morsell who scored 13 points. 

The Bison came out the aggressor, scoring the first eight points of the game. It was during this time period that redshirt junior forward Manny Bates went down with an arm injury. Bates did not return from the locker room for the duration of the game. Keatts said Bates was getting an MRI and his status will be updated afterwards.

“I knew we had to come together as a team and pray for [Bates],” Seabron said. “It did give a opportunity for our younger bigs to come in and show what they could do out there.”

NC State started the game by missing its first 10 shot attempts before sophomore guard Cam Hayes made a 3-pointer to give Wolfpack fans something to cheer about. 

Bucknell continued to put it on NC State throughout the first half. Cold shooting was a theme for the Wolfpack in the first half before Smith and Hellems decided to take matters into their own hands.

“I don’t get nervous,” Smith said. “We all lace up the same way, so I go at everybody because I know they are going to go at me.”

The duo helped lead a double-digit comeback at the end of the first half to give NC State a 2-point lead with less than a minute left until halftime. A Bucknell layup right before the halftime buzzer put the game at a 40-40 after 20 minutes. 

Smith and Hellems each had 12-points at the break to lead NC state. Xander Rice of Bucknell also had 12-points at halftime to tie the game high at the time. Despite having Bates sidelined for almost all of the first half the Wolfpack outrebounded the Bison 24-16. 

The Wolfpack came out in the second with renewed energy. Hellems continued to use his experience and lead by example for NC State offensively. 

NC State found itself up 58-51 with 12:31 left in the game after Seabron used his athleticism to go coast-to-coast after grabbing a defensive rebound. This led to a Bucknell timeout and PNC Arena in full voice for the first time all night. 

Six consecutive points out of the timeout gave NC State a 13-point lead and firm control of the game. NC State kept up the better play throughout the second half, shooting better, and forcing turnovers on defense. After being tied at halftime, NC State’s lead reached 21 points late in the game after a 7-0 scoring run.

Hellems, Smith, Seabron and Morsell all shined in the second period, as NC State looked like a completely different team. Morsell scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half. As a team NC State shot 52.9% from the field in the second half. 

“We played NC State basketball in the second half,” Keatts said. “When you look at it, we outscored [Bucknell] 48-30. We were able to force some turnovers and our young guys started to understand what we had to do in scouting reports and making the right play.”

NC State will be back inside PNC Arena Saturday Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. when it takes on Colgate.

Staff Writer

I’m Will Thornhill, a staff writer for the Technician’s sports department since March of 2019. I am in the class of 2022 at NC State, with a double-major in Sport Management and Communication Media.