RALIEGH, N.C. — First, North Carolina State’s defense was the problem. Then it became the solution.
Torin Dorn tied a career-high with 26 points to help N.C. State beat Bryant 95-72 on Tuesday night.
Lennard Freeman added a career-high 20 points and Allerik Freeman had 15 for the Wolfpack (3-0), who rallied from a 12-point deficit early in the first half.
The Bulldogs shredded N.C. State’s press for open layups and 3-point shots in the opening minutes, but they faltered after that and finished with 27 turnovers.
“When you’re a pressing team and a trapping team, you have to stay the course,” Dorn said. “We were able to turn up the pressure defensively.”
Markell Johnson had 10 points and a career-high 11 assists for N.C. State, and Darius Hicks scored a career-high 10 points.
Adam Grant scored 18 of his 24 points in the first half to lead Bryant (0-2). Ryan Layman added 14 points, Sabastian Townes had 13, and Bosko Kostur had 11 for the Bulldogs.
Bryant began the game 9 for 9 from the field, including three 3-pointers, on its way to a 21-10 lead, but the Wolfpack answered with a 13-0 spurt and never trailed again.
“I felt like we took a big step forward, especially on the defensive end,” N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said.
Bryant: The Bulldogs weren’t good enough to hang with N.C. State for 40 minutes, but they showed how formidable they can be at their best. Their onslaught from the opening tip sapped the energy from the building before they wilted against the Wolfpack’s full-court press. “That’s what pressure does to you,” Bryant coach Tim O’Shea said. “Teams will get rattled at times, and our guys are young guys.”
N.C. State: Say this for the Wolfpack: They never panicked. Even after giving up a couple of layups in the opening minutes, N.C. State stayed with its pressure defense and erased Bryant’s lead more quickly than the Bulldogs built it. The Wolfpack have yet to be tested, opening their season with three consecutive 20-point wins for the first time since 2004.
Braxton Beverly scored two points in his Wolfpack debut. The NCAA cleared Beverly to play immediately shortly before tipoff after reconsidering an ineligibility ruling tied to summer courses the freshman took at Ohio State.
Beverly entered the game to an ovation at the 13:51 mark of the first half and had a steal and layup during the Wolfpack’s big run. He finished 1 of 7 from the field in 16 minutes
Beverly, who had been practicing on N.C. State’s scout team, found out he could play during a call from Keatts.
“When he called me, I didn’t believe him at first,” Beverly said. “I was like, ‘Don’t start playing with me. Don’t get me excited for no reason.’ It was really great to finally get out there and play my first game.”
N.C. State senior Abdul-Malik Abu, the team’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, missed his third consecutive game after spraining a knee last month. “I don’t have a timeframe for when he’s going to play,” Keatts said. “But he is getting better.”
After Bryant took its biggest lead at 19-7, the Wolfpack scored on eight consecutive possessions. . Freeman, who missed last season while recovering from leg surgery, set a career high for scoring for the second time in three games. . Grant went scoreless for the first 11 minutes of the second half.
Bryant plays its home opener against Navy on Saturday before hitting the road for seven of its next eight games.
N.C. State wraps up its season-opening four-game homestand on Thursday against Presbyterian.