Well, well, well. It’s amazing the difference when NC State runs out a team at full strength. For the first time this season they looked dominant. They had a focus and a confidence about them as they went on to waste the Mountaineers 97-64. Let’s take a look at how it all came together.
Confidence built in Smith Jr during OT win carried over
We never like to “we told you so” our readers, but we took a ton of flak for our ‘positive’ write-up after the OT win over Tennessee State. The point of that article was to point out that every season had cornerstone moments. They’re not always big wins, for flashy performances. Sometimes they are gritty, ugly, hard-fought battles that alter perception, expose character, and build confidence. The win over Tenn St changed this team. That was the game it ‘clicked’ for Dennis Smith Jr. It had nothing to do with his stats or how many shots he hit. It had to do with him being in a position with his back against the wall, and an entire fanbase watching closely how he reacted. He answered the call and it was a proving moment for the kid. It was like you could see the switch getting flipped.
Against App State you saw that Dennis Smith Jr. He was physical, he was making plays and he was in full-on attack mode. Smith finished with 22pts, 6 assists, and 3 steals, but those numbers weren’t the story. The story was his style of play, his defense, and his leadership of the offense. This led to the Wolfpack getting easy buckets, and dominating the Mountaineers all night long.
Larger rotation of big time talent was fun to watch
Finally at full strength, it was really fun to see what this team is capable of. Gottfried has so many options. With Rowan and Yurtseven in the fold, you now have 9 guys that can give you legitimate ACC minutes without skipping a beat. All of the sudden there is less a concern over foul trouble and your guys can play full bore without hesitation. You can ask for max effort knowing that you have a fresh guy ready to come off the bench.
Last night eight guys played over 13 minutes. Think about that. When was the last time NC State had a legit 8 man rotation?
This also allowed Gottfried to show a bunch of different looks. He went big with Yurt and Anya or Yurt and Abu, something State really hasn’t been able to do with any significant success. This will help with rebounding and help when team’s have talented size. We already know the Pack can go small with success, as we’ve seen them do that most of the early part of the season.
See the next section as to why going big is suddenly working…
The addition of Yurtseven is game changing
With Omer Yurtseven reinstated by the NCAA, all of the sudden the Wolfpack offense looks better. Why is that? Well, it’s simple. Yurtseven and Smith are a feared duo. With Yurtseven’s shooting ability, teams can no longer double the pick and roll, or sag off in the lane. Yurt his two early jumpers that made App State have to respect him at the foul line and beyond. Add in the fact that Dennis Smith Jr is your primary ball handler and you have a very, very tough decision for defenses to make. Smith had less pressure and more room to drive. The middle was opened up as the opposing bigs had to step high to challenge Yurt. This in itself is going to make everyone on this team a little more dangerous.
Yurtseven finished the game with 12 points and 4 boards. He added 4 fouls and 4 TOs, but overall a very nice debut for the big man who showed a little nerves and a little rust. The takeaways for most will be his shot. He hit hit a long jumper and a 3, which had the crowd going nuts. However, the real exciting things were his footwork and his off the ball defense. Yurtseven understands space and that is super important for a big. He uses his body to creates space on offense, he rolls correctly off of ball screens, sealing his man and leading to the basket. His footwork is quick, crisp and confident and it helps him get good position on the block, and in good position to score when he receives it.
What wasn’t talked much about however, was Yurtseven’s defense. His on the ball defense was ok. He did foul a few times unnecessarily, but that will come with time. The real big takeaway was his off the ball defense. He is fully aware of his surroundings. For example, watch when Yurtseven’s man screens for someone else. Every time that happened, Yurt bumped the guy going off of his man’s screen, to slow momentum and give his man a chance to recover. A very small part of the game, but a part that if not done correctly can end up meaning 6 or 8 points over the course of the game…which is sometimes enough to change the outcome.
Stay tuned as we’ll have more breakdown from last night’s game throughout the day….