NC State has had a rough season, to say the least. They have lost five in a row looking lost most of the time. The Pack must find a way to get over themselves as they host UNC this Wednesday night. What are the keys to the game for the Wolfpack to atone for their earlier encounter with the Tarheels?
The Pack must be physical with Carolina.
The Tarheels are among the best in the country at rebounding the basketball. They fight hard on both ends of the court to secure rebounds. Their ability to attack the offensive glass helps them secure extra possessions as well as easy baskets. The Wolfpack need a complete team effort to limit Carolina on the glass. That means being physical in boxing out with each player putting a body on their man each time the ball goes up. Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven will need to make contact with UNC big men by moving them out of the way using their legs instead of their arms. The Pack will need to be tough if they are going to upset Carolina. They cannot back down if they do it will be another lopsided result.
Be the aggressors on offense.
Offensively NC State needs to handle Carolina’s pressure on the perimeter with poise and aggression. Dennis Smith, Terry Henderson, and Maverick Rowan cannot turn their back once they catch the ball. Instead, they need to be strong ripping the ball through and facing the basket so they can be a threat to shoot, dribble, or pass. Joel Berry took Dennis Smith out of the game last time these teams met by forcing him to initiate the offense too far out on the court. Smith needs to be aggressive attacking the paint taking the ball at Berry, not settling for quick jump shots. NC State will need to be patient staying within themselves moving the ball and turning down contested jump shots. In the first meeting, things snowballed for the Pack which led to quick irrational shots that put them further behind, that cannot happen again.
Don’t beat yourself.
NC State cannot give UNC any extra advantages by turning the ball over or not hustling. The first meeting NC State turned the ball over a whopping 26 times (yielding 39 points for UNC) and were out-rebounded 50-36 (22-second chance points). The Wolfpack must use ball fakes and move for one another to help each other when one gets in trouble. The Pack cannot give UNC extra possessions Wednesday if they are going to have any chance of winning. Carolina is too good in transition to be gift wrapped that many turnovers. NC State needs to secure defensive rebounds because UNC is too good at capitalizing on second chances. The Wolfpack will need to be near perfect to knock off UNC on Wednesday night.
Optimism is not a word that has been thrown around in regards to NC State basketball in recent weeks. In the midst of a five-game losing streak, the Pack has a chance to end that streak with a win over UNC. In a season of little triumphs, Wednesday offers an opportunity for NC State to have a bright spot. An opportunity for a fanbase to enjoy a little relief. Can NC State band together and beat their rivals this Wednesday? Game time is at 8 o’clock at the PNC Arena with coverage on The ACC Network.