The mood was pretty somber inside the NC State locker room, especially since they had just beaten Clemson by 4. Now, I’m not saying anything is wrong with this, in fact, I’m glad they weren’t happy. I think this is exactly the type of game that the Wolfpack needs to have. Wins that they’re mad about. It means they expect more out of themselves and they know they could’ve played better. The question now is, will they work to change it.
With that said, let’s take at a few things that stood out to us after rewatching the game and having a full day to sit on it.
-NC State is playing poor defense. That’s about as plain as I can put it. I know the effort is there a lot of the time. They dive for loose balls and they, at times, play physical, but they are still not getting it. They still aren’t taking pride in locking ‘their’ man down. They need to play with more veracity, more tenacity…this team needs to want to be feared. They have to want their man to be nervous when they catch the ball because the defense is so quick, so intense that they just want to give it to the next guy. Right now, the Wolfpack is far from this point. They play good defense in spurts, but rarely are they sustaining that effort.
-So where is the defense breaking down. Well, lots of places. For one, Lorenzo Brown needs to focus in on defense. He has the quickness, the strength and the length to become an elite stopper, but he coasts on defense at times. I want you to watch him closely. Watch the difference when NC State is in a late game, close situation on a possession that can win or lose the game. Or watch him against Duke. When Brown wants to defend you can see him in a deep crouch, focused in, in his defensive stance. His man isn’t going by him. Then watch Brown midgame in a game like Clemson where NC State is up by 9. He’s upright and he’s at the ball handlers mercy. This is the difference between allowing a team back in the game and putting a team away by 20 or 30. It’s as simple as effort and ‘want to.’
- And don’t think I’m picking on Brown. I just listed him first because he’s the guy who has all the NBA-ready tools. Howell and Leslie against Clemson were both getting abused in the paint, but there was reason. Booker was a mismatch for Leslie and overall I think CJ did a decent job of denying entry into the post. Howell on the other hand wasn’t moving well at all. Booker was pinning him deep in the lane and getting some very easy buckets. Howell did have a free pass however, since he was playing sick. NC State needs to get hungry on defense. They need to start relishing the look of fear in an opposing guards eyes when Brown gets down in a stance and starts making it hard to even dribble or make a point to point pass against the Pack.
- Now that we’ve talked about the negatives, let’s talk some positives, because, well, this was a win. We’ll start with Purvis. This kid is reminding me a lot of Julius Hodge during his freshman year. Hodge came onto the scene as a big time all-american, but didn’t jump right out of the gate as the team leader. That team had some vets on it that carried the team, but as the season wore on you saw Julius get more confortable and more comfortable until the end of the season where he was one of the biggest threats on the team. I think you’re starting to see that with Rodney. The kid is getting better and better in all aspects of the game and is going to be a star by the seasons end. I’m most surprised by his jump shot. I watched him play a lot in HS and I just wasn’t very impressed with his shot. Right now, he’s hitting 41% from 3pt range, that’s 3rd on the team (not counting walk-ons). He came out against Clemson and set the tone by knocking down 3 early 3′s. I think we can all see that PUrvis is going to succeed, simply because he’ll do what it takes to. This kid is putting in the work and we’re seeing it on the court.
-CJ Leslie is in a funk. It’s not a scoring funk, really. It’s more like a pace funk. Leslie is moving too fast. Teams are catching up with his moves and his style of play and they are taking away he bread and butter, which is the drive to the hoop. Teams are playing off of Leslie and asking him to shoot. He is, but he’s not hitting that many. Leslie is at his best when he’s attacking, but it’s hard to attack when teams play off you so far and double when you do drive. CJ needs to just be patient, choose his spots wisely, and play to his strengths. You can tell he’s frustrated by the way teams are playing him, but this is a game of adaption and Leslie will just need to adapt.
- Richard Howell was sluggish on Sunday and during the game I wondered what was going on. After the game we found out. Richard was sick and wasn’t at full strength. There is no word on how he feels today, but we’re hoping he’ll be ready when he suits up vs. Wake.
- How about TJ Warren. I was a bit worried about Warren after the Maryland loss. He looked off, his confidence was shaken and he really wasn’t giving NC State anything other than a few minutes for Purvis to rest on the bench. I was hoping that wouldn’t carry over to the Clemson game, and it didn’t. Warren looked real good vs. the Tigers, dropping 21 points and at one point reeling off 10 straight points. He also made some big defensive plays. This kid is phenomenal for a freshman. Did you know that he’s shooting over 50% from 3 point range. I think a major reason for that is the fact that he doesn’t force anything. All of his 3s come within the flow of the offense and he knocks them down when he’s open. The only concern I have with Warren is his understanding of the offense. Sometimes he just looks a little lost when State is running sets, but he’s a freshman and there is definitely a learning curve when it comes to the UCLA high post offense. That being said, we’re starting to get deep into the season and at some point I hope it starts clicking more. Right now however, I think he’s playing great basketball and really make the most of all of his opportunities.
- State shot 45% and knocked down 50% of their 3s. They played well offensively and looking at the stats it seems as if the Pack should have won by more. The Pack out-shot and out-rebounded Clemson. They only had 9 turnovers as well, so why didn’t State blow out the Tigers? The only stat that’s really standing out is Booker’s 27 points. They are having trouble stopping PFs that can score. You saw it at UNCG and now vs. Clemson. They need to get this fixed before tournament time.