TJ Warren absolutely dominated Boston College, posting a career high 42 points (and added 13 boards) helping the Wolfpack trump the Eagles 78-68.
This win was huge for a number of reasons. For one, it gives State the 7th seed in the ACC Tournament. This allows them a bye on Wednesday and a likely matchup with Miami on Thursday. If they were to win both, they would face a struggling Syracuse team who still sits comfortably in the top 10 (#7).
Now, not to get ahead of myself here, but that would have State finishing the season with 21 wins, three of which would likely qualify as top 50 (Tenn, Pitt and Syracuse) and one that would qualify as top 10 (Syracuse). This would put State firmly on the bubble and with them playing well down the stretch, and TJ Warren looking like the second coming of Paul Pierce, the Pack would have a very good case for the big dance.
But that’s all hypothetical and is probably thinking way too far into the future. For now, let’s focus on the breakdown of last night’s win.
Warren is Legend
I had a conversation with another State fan at the midseason mark and I posed the question “If State just came down and let Warren shoot every time, would they be a better team offensively?” Now, I was semi-joking, but it’s not all that far fetched, and lately it’s been trending that way. Warren is shooting over 40% of the teams shots as of late. Against BC he took 23 and the team took 53 (he also went to the line 17 times). That might seem like a lot for one player, but he’s converting at an unseen rate. Last night he finished 61% from the field, which does not look too crazy if he were scoring everything out of the post, however, most of Warren’s points are coming from midrange jumpers. Sure, he does score a lot in transition and off of loose balls underneath, but for a wing to be this efficient is kind of crazy.
Warren is putting the team on his back right now and seems on a mission to take them to the tournament. If he can continue to shoulder the load and his teammates can step up like they did against BC, State actually has a shot.
Dominance on the boards
You think TJ wanted this game? The guy didn’t just drop in a career high 42 points, he also tied a career high with 13 boards. His game has been taken to the next level and all I can say is that I hope you are enjoying the show, because you may not see something like this again in your lifetime as a Wolfpack fan.
The Pack’s ability to control the boards was vital in this win. They collected 10 more than BC and limited their second chance points. Down the stretch this was key as Hanlan tried to match Warren point for point. The difference was that when Hanlan did miss, State came down with it. When Warren missed, State was physical on the O. boards, grabbing 14 of them.
Desmond Lee on the comeback
Lee seemingly hit a wall sometime around midseason. The guy who we though was going to be State’s second leading scorer went invisible down the stretch and had a lot of people wondering if he was out of gas, hurt or was being bothered by something off the court. Turns out that Lee had just lost his confidence. A guy that was a very good shooter in the JUCO ranks, suddenly couldn’t buy a bucket.
That has been changing recently as Lee has started to emerge again as a scorer for State. While he couldn’t get it going against Pitt, he did have a breakout against Miami where he dropped 10 points and hit three 3s. Couple that with his strong outing (11 pts) against BC and Lee might be coming back around at the right time.
Point guard play at it’s peak
Speaking of broken slumps, it looks like the Wolfpack point guards are finally clicking on all cylinders. Lewis has found his stroke (6 for his last 10 from 3pt range) and Barber is learning how to protect the ball and run a basketball team.
Tyler is still Gott’s starter, but Barber is earning minutes back and that is great news for NC State. Lewis finished with 8 points, 5 assists and only 1 turnover in 24 minutes. Barber only played 16 minutes, but had 6 points, 3 assists and zero turnovers.In fact, over the past 4 games Barber has been magnificent. He’s totaled 11 assists, turned the ball over only 2 times, scored 23pts and shot 64% from the field.
Both guys are playing at their peak right now and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Give it up for Gottfried
You’ve got to give it to Gottfried. This team was picked to finish 10th and they finished 7th. This team was supposed to be an afterthought and they’re starting to make waves. It might be too little, too late, but this team doesn’t think so and that can be credited directly to their coach. He has them believing and he has them gelling at the perfect time.
Watch this team. Everyone is falling into their place. They are playing within themselves and they are excelling in their roles. Turner is taking smart shots, Lewis and Barber are managing games. Washington has become a threat from the short corner, Freeman and Anya are patrolling the middle and not trying to do too much offensively. Vandy has become a defensive presence and a quality passer on the offensive end. And Warren, well, he’s become the best scorer NC State fans have ever seen. This is how runs are made and how special things come together. There is still a lot of work to be done, but right now Gottfried’s stock is way up in my book.
NC State vs. UMES: BY THE NUMBERS
NC State defeated Maryland Eastern Shore 93-61 on Wednesday night. Here’s a look at the Wolfpack victory BY THE NUMBERS.
NC State dominated in all 4 Factors that lead to victory. They shot better, won the turnover battle, grabbed more offensive boards and got to the free throw line more.
Six NC State players scored in double figures. Last time that happened? March 6, 2020.
Junior Jayden Taylor led the Wolfpack in scoring with 21 points, shooting an impressive 8 of 11 from the field, and 3 of 5 from three. Over the past 2 games, Taylor is shooting 68% from the field and 63% from beyond the arc. Taylor has now led NC State in scoring in 3 of their 8 games, and is averaging a team high 14.9 points on the season. He is also shooting an insane 50% from deep, which is obviously a team high. What makes that number so impressive, is the fact he shot 32.6% from three last year at Butler.
Senior DJ Burns had 15 points, and was back to his normal self, shooting an efficient 7 of 9 from the field. Over the prior two games, Burns had made only 40% of his shots, which isn’t like him.
Senior Casey Morsell had 12 points on 4 of 8 shooting (1-4 3PT) and 5 rebounds. Morsell is shooting 36.1% from three on the year.
Sophomore MJ Rice made his NC State debut, and made the most of his 10 minutes of playing time, scoring 11 points and grabbing a team high 6 rebounds (2 offensive boards). He shot 5 of 6 from the field.
Sophomore LJ Thomas continued to provide a spark for the Pack, and like Rice, maximized his playing time, scoring 10 points in 9 minutes of play. He also had a team high 3 steals.
Senior DJ Horne had 10 points, shooting 4 of 7 from the field, and 2 of 5 from three-point land. Horne also led NC State with 4 assists, and now leads the team in assists on the year.
Junior Ben Middlebrooks picked up his first start of the season. Middlebrooks and Junior Mohamed Diarra ended up playing equal minutes (14). Diarra was seemingly more productive, with 8 points and 5 boards (averaging a team high 6.9), compared to Middlebrooks’ 2 points and 4 boards. Before you write off Middlebrooks’ impact in his first game as a starter, NC State was +23 with him on the court, which was a team high, compared to Diarra’s +7.
The Wolfpack will be back in action next Tuesday night in PNC Arena, against UT Martin at 7pm.
NC State’s NET Ranking After Defeating Maryland Eastern Shore
NC State defeated Maryland Eastern Shore 93-61 last night, improving to 6-2 on the season. Ironically, they fell one spot in the NET Rankings, from 51st to 52nd.
NC State’s two losses were against #1 BYU (!) and Ole Miss (#89). BYU was a Quad 1 loss, and Ole Miss was a Quad 2 loss.
The Wolfpack currently rank 7th in the ACC.
ACC Teams in NET Rankings
52) NC State
71) Virginia Tech
91) Boston College
105) Wake Forest
107) Florida St.
159) Georgia Tech
212) Notre Dame
For a refresher on how the NET Rankings are calculated:
Using the quadrant system, which was in its fourth season in 2020-21, the quality of wins and losses will be organized based on game location and the opponent’s NET ranking.
Quadrant 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75
Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135
Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240
Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353
The number of Quadrant 1 wins and Quadrant 3/4 losses will be incredibly important when it comes time for NCAA tournament selection and seeding. (NCAA)
Kansas Transfer MJ Rice Makes Quite the Impression in his NC State Debut
We’ve seen a lot of new faces on the NC State Men’s Basketball team this season, but one face we haven’t seen yet is Kansas Transfer Guard/Forward M.J. Rice (6’5″/215)…until tonight.
Rice stepped away from the program for personal reasons earlier this Fall, and when he returned, he had a little catching up to do. It wasn’t until today during shoot around that Rice and Keatts both knew that tonight would be his debut.
“He’d been practicing for the last couple of weeks, and you know, I was just trying to figure out when he was ready. He and I, we talked a little bit after shoot around today and I said ‘MJ you ready to go tonight?'” said Kevin Keatts. “and he had this big huge smile on his face. He’s like ‘You sure you ready?’ He’s like ‘Ask me some plays.’ So he and I sit over there on the scores table at the Dale and we went over plays and I was like ‘You know what, you are ready to play.'”
Out of all the transfers Keatts brought in this offseason, Rice might have the highest ceiling. Rice was a 5-Star prospect in the 2022 recruiting class, and ON3 ranked him as the #24 overall prospect nationally. He committed to Kansas, where he played in 23 games for the Jayhawks as a Freshman in 2022, averaging 2.2 points in 7.6 minutes per game. Rice was a huge pickup in the Transfer Portal, ranked as the #2 player in the Portal, with three years of eligibility remaining.
Rice also isn’t new to the area either, playing high school ball at Durham Academy, before heading off to Oak Hill Academy and Prolific Prep.
In a short sample size, Rice gave us a glimpse of what the hype is all about tonight. He scored 11 points in 11 minutes of play, also grabbing 6 boards. Rice was 5-6 from the field, and hit the only three he took. In the most electrifying play of the night, Rice took it coast-to-coast, finishing with a soaring dunk.
“He gives us another dimension. We’ve been playing with six of our new dudes. Now we added the seventh and I’m happy for him. He’s going to help us. He’s going to be really good for us.” said Keatts. “I said this on the radio just now…we’ve got some older guys, but two really good young players in Dennis Parker Jr. and also MJ Rice. It was good for MJ to see the ball going in. I think he played 10 minutes had 11 points. He made a three. He had a big time dunk, so I was excited for him.”
“He gives us the ability to play a little bit more small ball. If we have to, we can play him and Dennis Parker both at the three and four. Really good defender at that position and can rebound the basketball,” said Keatts. “It’s going to take time. I’m trying to figure out how to kind of put him into the rotation, and now we’ve added another really good exciting piece to it, but it was good to have him back out there.”
Welcome to the Pack MJ! We’re glad you’ve arrived!