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Wolfpack Smokes Queens in Preseason Opener, 78-47

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NC State 78 – Queens 47
Box Score

We keep saying that there are loads and loads of unanswered questions coming into this season. In tonight’s preseason opener against Queens, a lot of those questions began to get answered.

The Pack really ran away with this game in the second half, but we really weren’t watching the score. Instead we were watching the substitution patterns, the chemistry and the freshmen. Sure, it was nice to get a 78-47 win in an exhibition game, but there were much more important things going on out there tonight. Here’s what we’ve got.

Making Money On Defense
I don’t think we know enough yet to say that this team isn’t going to be a great offensive team, however on paper you’d have to believe that there will be night when they struggle to score it. That’s going to be ok if they can defend like they showed they can tonight. This was a different type of Mark Gottfried basketball. These guys were really getting into their guys, hassling ball handlers, playing great help defense, owning the glass and altering nearly any shot put up in the lane. Now, I know this was a small, undermanned Queens team but it was the hustle, the want-to and the desire that really caught my eye. Barber and Dez Lee were hounding ball handlers as soon as they crossed half court. They were in passing lanes and jumping point-to-point passes. I was seriously impressed with the showing on that end of the floor. State forced 30 TO’s as their offense fed off of their defense all night. If that is going to be this team identity then it’s fine by me.

Freshmen Lead the Way
Early on the offense looked a little disjointed. The Pack was forcing shots, dribbling into trouble and just bumbling around a lot over the first 8 minutes. It actually was the freshmen who came in and kind of settled things down. First you had Caleb Martin. I know this was just one game, but this kid brings a different dimension to this offense. He was red hot tonight, finishing with team high 16 points on 6-10 shooting and 4-6 from 3pt range (he also added 3 steals, 2 blocks and 4 boards). He’s got a pretty stroke from long range, but he’s not a one dimensional player by any means. Caleb showed his ability to take the ball into traffic, as well as finishing on the break. He’s going to have his ups and downs like anyone else this season, but in the long run this kid is going to be special. This was quite a way to start a career.

Another freshmen who had a big showing was Abdul-Malik Abu who finished with 14 points and 5 boards. Abu showcased an all around game that should have Pack fans pretty excited. He was very active in the paint, very physical on both ends of the floor and even showed off a nice 15 foot jumper. Abu had some drives to the hoop that made it seem as if he’s been here a while. His body control and physical nature are going to be big  pluses for this team. He was the second leading scorer in this one and will be certainly getting a nice chunk of minutes come season time.

Lacey Struggles Again
Trevor Lacey is going to be good. There’s no debating that fact, but just how good is still up in the air. So far he really hasn’t had much success in front of the Wolfpack faithful. In the red/white scrimmage he was more of a distributor and did not score and tonight he just couldn’t find his touch. Lacey finished 3-12 shooting, notching only 7 points. I think it might be another game or two before he gets in the groove, but when he does this team is going to start kicking into gear.

Anya As Advertised
Although he didn’t start the game, Beejay Anya really made a big impact in this one. He only played 20 minutes, but in those minutes he scored 7 point (2 dunks), had 6 blocks and pulled down 4 boards. The big man is going to be a big factor for State on defense this season. Queens wasn’t able to get a many clean shots off inside the arc with Anya patrolling the paint. His length and now his ability to get off the floor makes anyone driving into the lane think twice.

More Zone?
State went zone in the second half and I really thought it was a good look for them. This team is very long and if they can learn positioning and to not fall asleep when in the zone, then they’ll be able to really shut some teams down with this defense. With the quickness of Barber and Lee, the length and quickness of the Martin twins and the sheer size of Anya in the middle, there isn’t much room to work the ball inside the zone without having it deflected, or being met with a big body when you do catch it. It will be interesting to see how often Gottfried employs that zone.

Barber Still Settling In
When Barber pushes the issue too much the team suffers. They just lose rhythm and the offense gets out of whack. But when Cat lets the game come to him and plays within the flow, the gears start turning for these guys. Early on Barber was pressing, but in the second half he really settled into his PG role and started looking more like the guy that could end up being a true threat in this league. Barber finished shooting only 2-9 but he did add 5 assists and only had 1 TO. Cat needs to just stop thinking about scoring and become a true distributor first. The scoring is a given and there will be times when he has to create his own shot, but right now I think he’d be best served trying to average double digit assists by getting into the lane and looking to dump it off or kick it out for a wide open 3.

NC State opens up their season this Friday at 7pm against Jacksonville at the PNC Arena.

 

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NC State Basketball

NC State is Adding UMASS’ Brett Nelson as an Assistant Coach

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According to reports, NC State is adding UMASS’ Brett Nelson as an Assistant Coach.

Nelson was only at UMASS for 1 season under Frank Martin. Prior to that, Nelson was the Head Coach at Holy Cross for 4 seasons, posting a 27-84 record.

Prior to taking the Head Coaching mantle at Holy Cross, Nelson was at Marquette for 5 seasons, spending the first 3 as an Assistant Coach, and the final two as an Associate Head Coach. Prior to Marquette, Nelson also served as an Assistant Coach at Ball St., Drake, Arkansas and Marshall.

Before coaching basketball, Nelson played for the University of Florida from 1999-2003. He was All-SEC twice, and earned Third Team All-American honors. When he left Gainesville, he was the Gators’ all-time leader in three pointers made, and ranked 2nd in steals.

As a Senior in High School, Nelson was a McDonald’s All-American.

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NC State Basketball

Ernest Ross Announces He is Returning to NC State

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Power Forward Ernest Ross announced this morning that he is returning to NC State for his final year of eligibility.

 

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Last Friday, Ross committed to UTSA after entering the Transfer Portal on April 17th, but it looks like he had a change of heart over the past couple of days.

NC State has been in desperate need to add a Big out of the Portal. They have hosted ECU’s Ezra Ausar and Georgia’s Frank Anselem-Ibe, but neither of them have found a home yet. With the addition of Ross, NC State has added depth in the Frontcourt, and unless something changes, their roster is full with 13 scholarship players.

Ross played in 14 games this past season, averaging 3.4 minutes per contest. After playing in 34 games last season, averaging 11.4 minutes per contest, Ross saw his participation dip to a career low this season, but that didn’t for a second break his infectious personality. On the sideline, you could count on Ross every single game to be the heart and soul of the Wolfpack on the bench. To watch a player who played as little as he did, care as much as he did, makes me super proud that this young man represented NC State so well.

Ross was a consensus 4-star player in NC State’s 2021 recruiting class, with 247Sports ranking him as the #60 overall player nationally. ESPN ranked him as the #5 overall player in the state of Florida.

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NC State Basketball

A Matchup Between NC State & Marquette Next Season Might be in the Works

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According to NCAA.com’s Andy Katz, a matchup between NC State and Marquette next season might be in the works.

This past year, the Wolfpack defeated the Golden Eagles 67-58 in the Sweet 16 of the 2024 NCAA Tournament.

NC State and Marquette have played one another 6 times overall, with the Wolfpack holding a 4-2 lead in the series, winning the past two matchups.

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NC State Basketball

NC State Men’s Basketball Will Play in the 2025 Maui Invitational

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The NC State Men’s Basketball Team will be playing in the 2025 Maui Invitational, on November 24-26 in Hawaii. This will mark the first time that NC State has ever played in the Maui Invitational.

NC State will be joined by Baylor, Oregon, Seton Hall, Texas, UNLV, USC and Chaminade.

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