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‘Our Take’ on NC State’s win over Notre Dame

NC State Basketball

‘Our Take’ on NC State’s win over Notre Dame

The Wolfpack bounced back after three sketchy performances (2 of which were losses) to take down Notre Dame and notch their first ACC victory. Here are some observations and opinions on the game.

– Mark Gottfried coached a gem. 
Coaches are blamed a lot when teams lose, but not often enough are coaches pointed out as reasons why a game was won. I think tonight was a game that was won by Mark Gottfried.

First off, I think he made a smart move by starting Kyle Washington. Lennard Freeman has played hard and has been a real factor for this team, but with the offense sputtering as of late, I think it was time for Washington. Now, he did only finish with 5 points and 1 rebound, but I felt like he had a positive influence on this ballgame and he gave State one more scoring option on the floor. I also think the ability to bring both Anya and Freeman off the bench was huge. Freeman is a great hustle/glue guy to bring off the bench and inject some energy into the team. He’s a guy who isn’t afraid to get dirty in the paint and that’s a perfect personality type for a 6th man.

It was also very apparent that Gottfried stressed getting the ball to the bigs a little more in this one.  State doesn’t have any real scoring threats in the post, but tonight they at least worked it in there and made the defense react to a more inside-out approach. As we said after the Pitt game, it’s important to not get too one dimensional, and tonight they showed that they are willing to get their bigs involved.

Then you had the 3/4 court press that State was in all night. This was a great call by Gott. Notre Dame wanted to  really slow the game down and take State out of their transition game. The Irish likes to play slow and limit turnovers, but by putting Warren at the top and running that press, State was able to really speed them up and cause a lot of unforced errors (11 turnovers on the night). Most importantly it got them playing at a pace a little fast for their liking.

Lastly, I think going with Tyler Lewis in spurts was huge. This is something we’ve kind of harped on over the past few games and have been pretty outspoken about. Against Missouri, then UNCG and again vs. Pitt, State went out to big leads, only to get out of control and either make it close, or lose it. A lot of that is based on youth. Barber is obviously the more dangerous point guard and has earned the starting spot, but Lewis is still very valuable to this team. Cat is still learning that when other teams make a run, it’s time to throttle down a bit, get some composure and work it around to get an easy bucket. Instead he’s throttled it up and tried to steal the momentum back with one drive to the hoop. It’s not that easy in the ACC and I think he will learn that soon. There was a period of time when State led, then the Irish stormed back. That’s when Gottfried took out Barber and went with Lewis. Tyler didn’t light up the scoreboard or anything, but what he did do was protect the basketball, control the pace and managed the lead for NC State. Then with 6 minutes left, Gottfried went back with Barber who sealed the deal. I know Cat is the PG of the future, but right now I think NC State is better using these two as more of a tandem where the situation should dictate who is out there.

 

– NC State bigs stepped up
Notre Dame is a very big, very talented team in the paint and there was some concern that the young Wolfpack team wouldn’t have what it took to stop them. That notion proved to be all wrong. The NC State big men not only held their own, they took a step forward. Vandenberg finished with 11 boards. Freeman pitched in 5, while Anya ripped down 4. They out rebounded the Irish 38-37, but it wasn’t their work on the boards that has me really excited.  I really thought this team showed a lot of maturity in this one. They were much more patient, handled runs a lot better and actually put a little trust in their bigs. Sure, Vandy, Anya, Washington and Freeman only combined for 18 points, but they were a lot more involved. They were working a lot more out of the high post and the guards were finding them a lot more often in the gaps in the zone. We mentioned earlier this week that State needed to put some trust in their big men and tonight they did just that.

 

– Strong performance by Barber and Lewis
I think we’re seeing the slow maturating of Anthony Barber. He played a lot more within himself against Notre Dame than he has in the past few contests. He finished with 16 points, which was good for 2nd best on the team. However, it wasn’t the scoring that impressed me, it was his poise for most of the game. For the first time in a while I felt like Cat really focused on getting the ball to the right people and not trying to take over the game by himself. He’s a freshman so when the going gets tough he likes to ramp it up instead of slowing it down and getting composed, but he’s learning. Tonight when the Irish started their run, Barber started to go into freshman mode, and Gottfried replaced him with Lewis. This calmed the game down a bit and put NC State back in control. With Notre Dame’s momentum stopped, he was able to go back with Cat and deliver the final blow. This is the 1-2 punch we were talking about and feel the Wolfpack really needs to be successful. Lewis only had 2 points, but he did add 4 assists and was a real calming force down the stretch when Notre Dame made their run. Again, State needs Barber as much as they need Warren. He’s one of the most lethal weapons on both ends of the floor that this team has and he needs to be getting the majority of the minutes, but I really liked the way Gottfried used both guards tonight in different situations. I think it ended up being the difference in this one.

 

– Teams zeroing in on Warren
Things are getting pretty tough for TJ lately. Teams have really focused on stopping the ACC’s leading scorer and you can tell it’s frustrating him. He finished with 17 points last night, but it was on 6-17 shooting. More and more Warren is having to lean on his jumper, which is definitely not his first option. The Pack needs him to score and he knows this, which is why he’s shooting over 30% of the team’s shots. There is no complaints here, I’m just stating the facts. I think Warren has been the reason that this team is actually competitive and they’ll only go as far as he can take them. That being said, this team needs to find more creative ways to get him the ball where he can score it. I know they’re trying, but there seems to be long stretches where he struggles to get a good look.

Two areas that people don’t pay much attention to is Warren’s defense and rebounding. He’s so good at putting the ball in the basket that they’re not seeing the whole picture. Warren has been really good on defense all season and is the team’s leading rebounder at 7.8 per game.

 

Dez Lee and Ralston turner both added 12 and both were huge in this game. Early in the first half it was Dez Lee who answered a big Notre Dame 3 with a pull up 3 of his own. This sparked a run by NC State that left them up 9. Lee’s focus, intensity and strength have made him a real key part of this basketball team.

Ralston Turner is also providing a huge spark for this team with his shooting. He was 3-5 in this one and 2-3 form beyond the arc. He’s got an awkward looking shot, but this kid can fill it up. He’s now shooting 43% from 3 point range. That’s Scott Wood territory, folks. Turner’s shot selection has improved and he’s getting better, cleaner looks against the zone, which is helping State not go stagnant when teams pull out the 2-3.

 

– A Look at the Numbers
State and Notre Dame both shot 41% from the floor, but State was able to get to the free throw line a lot more. This is a testament to the energy and hunger this team showed against the Irish. They went right at the bigs and weren’t scared to go up strong. State went to the line 32 times to Notre Dame’s 12. The Wolfpack also was big in the turnover department. They forced 11 TOs and wont the ‘points off turnovers’ battle 16-10. They also out rebounded the Irish 39-37.

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