I’m finally got around to watching the State/Duke game again last night and wanted to give you ‘our take’ on the game.
- Overall, this was one of the best all-around games NC State has played this season. They were really clicking on offense shooting over 50% again and holding Duke to just 45%. On defense they played amazing against the Blue Devils. Statistically, only Louisville has played better D on Duke this season.
- Much of the praise went to Richard Howell and CJ Leslie after the game, but Lorenzo Brown deserves a ton of credit. Brown has been pretty good this year, but really hadn’t played at the level he was playing at near the end of last season. While I still don’t think he was at that level against Duke, Brown really played the game at his pace and was the facilitator to everything State did offensively. He finished with 13 assists and 12 points. Unfortunately, Brown is still struggling with his shot. He shot a miserable 3-13. I think slowly but surely, that too will start to come around.
- Speaking of much of the praise going to Richard Howell and CJ Leslie. I think it’s fitting. Howell was just an absolute man on Saturday. He’s just playing with an aggression, or maybe the better word is violence, that few college players can match. He’s so physical and really is out there with bad intentions, which is exactly what every team wants out of their big man. The thing with Howell is that you’re seeing him improve everywhere. He quicker, stronger, and he’s added an arsenal of post moves that no one is talking about. His little reverse pivot face-up move has been dominant from 12 feet out, and inside his footwork is light years ahead of where it was a year ago. Howell always used to struggle against taller shot blockers like Plumlee, but not anymore. Mason did finish with 15 points, but Howell’s 16 and 18 were much more impressive. He just wanted it more than anyone on Duke’s roster, and it showed.
- Now on to Leslie. When the lights get bright, CJ comes out to play. Now, he’s been bringing pretty consistent effort this season so what I’m about to say is not a knock in any way, but Leslie just find this different gear when it’s a big game. I used to have a coach who constantly told us that we can’t just ‘flip a switch’ when big games come, that you have to play every game the same. For most players that’s true, but Leslie can just flip this switch that turns him from a great frontcourt player, to an unstoppable, unguardable monster. There was no answer for him. And Duke fans can say all they want about Ryan Kelly not being there and about how great he is defensively, but with the level Leslie was playing at on Saturday, no player in college basketball had a shot to stop him, let alone Ryan Kelly. Leslie finished with 25 and down the stretch just killed Duke. Two years ago I would have thought that CJ was bringing this type of effort because he wanted to improve his draft stock, but watching him celebrate after the game, getting hoisted-up by his hometown fans, you could see that this meant more to him than impressing some scouts. Leslie’s all-in right now and it’s really, really fun to watch.
- Rodney Purvis came through huge in his first ACC rivalry game. While he may not have filled up the stat sheet he played a huge role on the defensive end and made a few plays that ignited the ‘ready to combust’ NC State crowd. Although Curry still finished with 22 points, Purvis did a great job coming in as a freshman and being asked to guard such a potent scorer. Purvis did a great job of fighting through ball screens, closing out, and staying grounded on shot fakes. Curry was still able to get his buckets, but Purvis made sure every basket was earned against him. Purvis really showed his potential to be a lockdown defender, against , which will prove but be valuable for this State team that has trouble finding an answer to scoring guards.
Early on when things were back and forth, it was Purvis who ignited the crowd with some stellar defense and a dunk/celebration that just sent chills up the spines of State fans. Again this was an impressive performance from a kid who is playing his first games in the ACC.
- Speaking of freshmen…When Purvis got tired, in came TJ Warren and I’ll be honest, I thought that was a huge mistake. I didn’t think Warren was quick enough to stay with Curry, but man was I wrong. Warren lengths and strength really bothered Seth. Sure he had a little more space to shoot because he was a little quicker, but he rarely got a clean shot off without Warren closing out and really frustrating Curry. I was really impressed by this because Warren is really only talked about for his offense, but he’s starting to really buy in on defense. If he can keep this up, then watch out, because he’s long and moves well for his size.
- You didn’t think I’d forget to talk about Wood, did you? This kid was huge in this game. He set the tone right out of the gate with a lonnng 3 ball and then made Duke pay 2 more times. Wood hasn’t played well against Duke in the past, including a 1-10 performance last year, and in our pre-game piece we wondered if him being a senior would change things. I guess it did. Scotty played with a chip on his shoulder, yapping with Thornton, getting a technical, and knocking down every shot he took. A huge performance that had Dickie V talking about how Wood would likely be playing in the NBA next year thanks to his stroke. I think if you really want to understand how good this guy is, you need to see him play up close. He’s ALWAYS running around trying to get open. He’s never still. He’s being bumped, held, pushed, and rarely gets an open look, but every now and then he sees daylight and when he does he capitalizes. It’s amazing to watch.
- Which brings me to the refs. I felt like this game was very fairly officiated. State did get some favorable calls early on, and Duke got two charges that were very questionable, but overall the refs stayed out of the players way and that’s the way it should be. Going back and watching the Thornton/Wood matchup, you can obviously see Thornton flailing and flopping, trying to get a call on Wood which led to Thornton being called for a foul where he didn’t really foul Wood, but he flopped so poorly I think the ref felt insulted and called it on him. I also thought the refs really botched the charge call on Purvis in the first half. He literally stepped right past the defender, who flopped and got the charge called. With that being said, State did get their share of questionable calls that helped them out, but when I say questionable calls, I mean physical play that we’re used to see getting called. I love the way this game was reffed and going forward, win or lose, I hope all ACC games flow like this one did.