There's something about Reynolds Coliseum that brings out the best in Devon Daniels.
Last December, the transfer guard from Utah scored a career-high 21 points in NC State's annual Heritage Game at the renovated old on-campus arena. Tuesday, he returned to Reynolds and did himself one better, upping his personal best to 23 points in leading the Wolfpack to an 87-64 victory against Alcorn State.
Although he wasn't in the starting lineup, Daniels came off the bench early and immediately began attacking. He went 9 of 13 from the floor, making two of his three 3-pointers and all three free throws to set the tone for State's fourth straight win since its season opening loss to Georgia Tech.
"I love Reynolds," the 6-foot-5 redshirt junior said. "I like the atmosphere. I like the backdrop. I like Reynolds.
"It's just a great place to play. The fans are, I wouldn't say more involved, but they're closer to you. It's like a small arena. The atmosphere is better."
Daniels was one of four State players to score in double figures in the game, joining Markell Johnson with 16, Jericole Hellems with 12 and D.J. Funderburk with 10 on a night in which it shot a season-best 53.7 percent from the floor.
Although it was far from a perfect effort -- especially on defense, where Alcorn took advantage of State's difficulty rotating out of its press to convert 8 of 15 3-point attempts -- State succeeded in accomplishing coach Kevin Keatts' goal of showing improvement with each of its early season games against overmatched opponents.
"I thought we did some great things," Keatts said afterward. "We got going in the second half. We had a great spurt where we made some shots. I thought we shot the ball well in the second half behind the 3-point line.
"We settled a little bit in the first half, where I thought we should have drove it and got some easy baskets. That being said, I’m happy with our win and I like where we are at. I think we are moving in the right direction.
Outside of Daniels' performance, the most encouraging aspect of Tuesday's win was the p production provided by Johnson.
The senior point guard still hasn't gotten his shooting stroke back -- he was 2 of 8 on 3-pointers and has now made just 4 of his 25 attempts for the season. But he still managed to score 16 points while handing out eight assists in 35 1/2 minutes of action.
Even at that, Keatts said he didn't think Johnson played great, though he added that it was good for him "to see the ball go through the hole."
"I know we’ve all said that Markell hasn’t played well, but he’s passed the ball well," Keatts said. "He’s had a few more turnovers than I would like. That being said, I think he’s played well when he’s not scoring the ball.
"He’s done different stuff. He’s gotten people involved. He’s passing the ball at a high level. I can’t get him to go back, I don’t want him to be sophomore Markell where he thinks he’s got to lead the league in assists. On this particular team, we need him to have a balance of scoring and passing the basketball."
Balance is something that is rapidly becoming the Wolfpack's trademark.
All eight of the scholarship players that saw extended action made positive contributions to the victory -- whether it was Daniels' scoring off the bench, Johnson's distributing, Hellems' six rebounds, Pat Andree's three 3-pointers or freshman center Manny Bates' effective defense around the rim.
State's bench outscored Alcorn's reserves 42-30 to improve its margin for the season to 158-99.
"I’m playing eight guys right now and all eight guys could be starters," Keatts said. "So the three guys that are coming off the bench, they’ve been tremendous. Our bench is scoring just as much as the guys starting the game.
"Our team is good. I’ve got eight guys that I figure that I can start at any point. I give Pat, Devon and D.J. a lot of credit because not once have they pouted about coming off the bench. They just come in and do their job. With eight guys that we are playing everybody knows that they are going to play, so nobody complains."
Keatts didn't have any complaints, either, especially when it came to Daniels' performance.
"Devon was really good tonight," the coach said. "He was aggressive. He made shots. He mixed his game up and then I thought he was very solid on the defensive end. He’s a good player. He’s starting to buy in and understand what I’m looking for. I thought he played well."
As he usually does at Reynolds.