Smith’s 30 pts leads NC State past Loyola of Chicago, 79-77.
Dennis Smith Jr. is back to playing like himself. Still, he looked like someone else to the opposing coach.
Smith scored a career-high 30 points to help North Carolina State beat Loyola-Chicago 79-77 on Saturday.
Torin Dorn added 20 points for the Wolfpack (5-1), who shot 51 percent from the floor.
Smith, a freshman point guard, made 13 of 22 shots from the floor and added seven assists. He opened the season a combined 6 of 22 in the first two games.
“I’m much more comfortable,” Smith said. “I’m still finding my way, just like everybody else. We’re going to get a lot better.”
Abdul-Malik Abu broke a 71-71 tie with a tip-in with 3:29 remaining to give N.C. State the lead for good.
Smith provided a steal and layup, assisted on a dunk by Abu and made two free throws to keep his team in front.
“Dennis Smith was phenomenal,” Loyola coach Porter Moser said. “He was like (Russell) Westbrook the way he was that quick and that athletic. . I mean, he’s all that and more than advertised.”
Terry Henderson scored 19 points for the Wolfpack, who missed the front end of two one-and-ones in the final 7 seconds.
Markell Johnson stole the ball from Loyola’s Milton Doyle after the first, and Cameron Satterwhite’s heave from just beyond halfcourt missed after the second.
Aundre Jackson scored 20 points to lead Loyola (5-2), which led by as many as 11 points in the first half.
Ben Richardson had 16 points for the Ramblers, who made 10 of 17 3-point attempts.
Doyle had 12 points and Clayton Custer had 11 for Loyola.
Loyola: With their lack of size inside, the Ramblers are going to have trouble defending around the basket just as they did against the Wolfpack. But their spread offense is legit, and they gave N.C. State fits with it. Loyola had clear driving lanes to the basket and open 3-point attempts from all over the court throughout the game.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack struggled defensively and got almost no production from their interior players against an undersized opponent. They continue to excel in the open court offensively, but they must improve defensively as conference play approaches. “We’ve got one guy wearing a blue sock and one guy wearing a green sock,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “Two guys trying to guard are not on the same page. We’ve got to get on the same page.”
Smith showed his outstanding leaping ability early in the second half. Johnson missed a layup in transition, and Smith rebounded and dunked the ball in one motion to give the Wolfpack a 55-52 lead.
HE SAID IT
“I love my team. The thing I can say most is that in that locker room, they were genuinely upset. They were hurting big-time. They came in here not to come close; they came in here to win. That’s a great sign when you’re trying to develop culture in a program.” — Moser
N.C. State swingman Maverick Rowan missed his fifth consecutive game due to a concussion. Gottfried said Rowan will continue to be evaluated each day, but there is no timetable for his return.
Wolfpack post player BeeJay Anya left the game late in the first half after being poked in the eye. He was cleared to return in the second half but did not re-enter the game.
Loyola hosts Norfolk State on Wednesday night in the first game of a four-game homestand.
N.C. State plays at Illinois on Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.