RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Caleb Martin never looked nervous in his first start for North Carolina State. The freshman simply turned in his best performance of the young season to make up for the surprise absence of the Wolfpack's top scorer.
Martin scored a season-high 17 points to help N.C. State beat Charleston Southern 86-50 on Friday night despite playing without Trevor Lacey due to an ankle injury.
The 6-foot-6 wing matched his previous high of 15 points in the first 9 minutes, and that had the Wolfpack (8-1) rolling early.
"I was surprised but at the same time excited and anxious to go out there and play my game," Martin said of getting the start, " (and) just show we've got people who can back each other up no matter what."
Martin made his first five shots, set his new season high with a tip-in a minute into the second half and finished with seven rebounds.
"He stepped in there and he acted like he had been in there his whole life, in the starting lineup," coach Mark Gottfried said. "He played with great confidence."
The Wolfpack had no trouble winning in the return to Reynolds Coliseum — the program's longtime former campus home — for a two-game set this weekend. N.C. State ran off 22 straight points to blow the game open early, leading 46-20 by halftime and cruising in its first game since beating Wake Forest in an early Atlantic Coast Conference opener nearly a week earlier.
N.C. State shot 51 percent and hit seven 3-pointers in its dominating first half and finished at 49 percent despite Lacey's absence.
The Alabama transfer, who was averaging 16.8 points, had a brace on his right ankle and was dressed out on the bench. Gottfried said Lacey rolled his ankle at a recent practice and had some swelling, so the team held him out even though he probably could've played.
Cedrick Bowen scored 14 points to lead the Buccaneers (5-3), who hit their first shot then went scoreless for 7-plus minutes to watch this one get away quickly.
Charleston Southern had as many turnovers (eight) as field goals in the opening half and finished the game shooting 31 percent.
"We've been able to score against most everybody and we're a pretty good team offensively," Charleston Southern coach Barclay Radebaugh said, "and they totally took us out of what we try to do."
Charleston Southern: Arlon Harper's 3-pointer at the 19:22 mark gave the Buccaneers a 3-0 lead. Charleston Southern didn't score again until Saah Nimley's free throw with 12:17 left in the half. ... Nimley was averaging 15.9 points but had nine on 1-for-5 shooting.
N.C. State: Ralston Turner scored 17 points and hit four 3-pointers. ... N.C. State had a 20-4 edge in points off turnovers and blocked 10 shots.
TAKING AWAY THE 3
The Buccaneers came in averaging 10 3s per game, but finished 2-for-21 from behind the arc. Radebaugh said the Wolfpack defenders covered shooters and kept dribblers in front of them. "If you're going to stay out on the shooters, you've got to be able to what we call guard your yard," he said. "And they did that, almost to perfection."
ABU'S BIG NIGHT
Wolfpack freshman Abdul-Malik Abu finished with a season-high 11 points. He shook off a blown missed alley-oop transition dunk by scoring immediately afterward — he gave a quick thumbs-up to Gottfried — then made good on another alley-oop dunk minutes later.
Charleston Southern travels to Wofford on Wednesday to continue a three-game road trip.
N.C. State hosts Wofford on Sunday in its second straight at Reynolds.
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