NC State

Wolfpack needs 3-point touch of Hunt, Freeman

RALEIGH N.C. State’s Allerik Freeman referred to Sam Hunt as the Wolfpack “sniper” on Sunday, and that was fine with Hunt.

With the Wolfpack struggling to hit shots against Charleston Southern late in the first half of Sunday’s game at PNC Arena, Hunt nailed a 3-pointer from the corner.

Moments later, Hunt did it again.

Just before halftime, Hunt did it again.

Hunt did not have another basket in the game, but the damage to Charleston Southern had been done, and in short order. The Pack, scoring the last 17 points of the first half, suddenly had a 21-point halftime lead and was on its way to a 78-56 victory.

“That’s what he can do,” Freeman said. “He’s a sniper. He can light it up. He can get hot.

“One of the games we played in Italy, I think he had almost 40 (points). He had 11 threes or something like that, something crazy. We see it all the time in practice. He can catch fire, and there’s nothing you can do to stop him.”

It’s hard to say how much Freeman was exaggerating about Hunt and those 11 3-pointers in Italy – if he was. Details about the exhibition games that N.C. State played during its Italian trip in August were sketchy.

“It’s a little rumor,” Hunt said, smiling.

“No, it’s true,” Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts said. “He made some big ones for us. His threes for us were timely and worked out for us.”

Hunt and Freeman, both graduate transfers, came to N.C. State with a reputation for being three-point threats. Hunt had 74 last season at North Carolina A&T, and Freeman knocked down 44 from the arc at Baylor.

But Keatts thinks the Pack can be a solid shooting team, not just one that thrives off transition baskets but has a designated sniper or two. Freeman also had three 3-pointers Sunday in scoring 18 points.

“I like the team’s ability to make shots,” Keatts said. “At all times we have guys on the floor who can make shots. I think the more we work at it and the more we play at our pace, I think we’ll become a good shooting team.”

Keatts wants the Pack to run the floor and use its defense to fuel the offense. Everything fell into place nicely Friday in the season opener as N.C. State raced past VMI 102-67 at PNC Arena.

N.C. State's Allerik Freeman (12) drives to the basket as Charleston Southern's Jordan Jones (13) defends at PNC Arena in Raleigh Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. Ethan Hyman

In came Charleston Southern, off a 110-62 beating by Davidson and playing without 6-4 sophomore Christian Keeling, suspended for violating team rules. The Pack did score 26 points off 24 Charleston Southern turnovers, but the Buccaneers slowed the pace, and N.C. State’s half-court offense will need more time to smooth out.

“I told our team there will be nights, because we’re a transition team, sometimes people expect us to score in the 100s, even our guys,” Keatts said. “But to win at a championship level, you have to win every type of game, whether in 50s, 60, 70s or 100s for us.”

Hunt had a career-high 34 points in a game against Norfolk State while at A&T and a career-best seven 3-pointers in another game. He has shown he has that potential.

Hunt is making the step up to the ACC level while Freeman spent the past three seasons in the Big 12. Keatts will need them both in his first season.

“Me and Al go back and forth as to who’s the best shooter on the team,” Hunt said, smiling.

Told Freeman called him the sniper, Hunt said. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”