The Pack came out guns blazing, taking an early 20 point lead over Hofstra in the first half. It looked like they were on their way to another gigantic victory, but cold shooting in the second half and a red hot Juan’ya Green (19pts) helped the Pride outscore the Pack 35-31 in the second half. In the end it was another double digit victory for the Wolfpack, but this game exposed that there is still a lot of work to be done on this young team. Here are our main talking points:
Efficiency Against the Zone?
The Pack really went cold when they were slowed down via the Hofstra zone. It’s still early in the season and the zone offense still needs some work, but the Pack quickly found out that heaving up 3 after 3 rarely works. When State got out on the break they were dominant. Everyone was in rhythm, shots were falling, and the guys were attacking aggressively. Against the zone they were timid and quickly took the easy way out by shooting the 3s Hofstra was giving them. Luckily Ralston Turner was hot or this game could have quickly gone in a different direction.
Teams are going to zone this team quite a bit. With two dynamic guards that can get in the lane, and an athletic front court that can finish, it’s going to be in teams best interests to pack the middle and make State shoot it form deep. While Lacey and Turner both are better than average shooters they need to play inside out against these defenses. For instance, when Hofstra went 1-3-1 for a bit, Kyle Washington was sealing the backside guy and asking for the lob. No one wanted to risk throwing it. They also weren’t using the middle flasher as the number one option. Washington was flashing, but rarely getting the ball. When he did he was shooting it instead of either dumping it down to the other big (who should be sealing) or reversing it for a squared up, wide-open 3 ball. This is going to take work, but it’s necessary for State to figure this out before ACC play.
Cat Barber Nearing Potential
I know it probably seems like we’re nitpicky on this site when we talk about Cat. We are, but it’s only because we believe that he’s not only the key to this team, but has the ability to be one of the most dynamic point guards State has seen in a very, very long time. After 2 games it seems like he is certainly making strides in the right direction. After his big 25 points, 6 assist, 6 rebound, 0 turnover performance against Jackson State, he turned around and went for 15 points, 6 assists, 7 rebounds and only 1 TO. Very, very impressive. Add in the fact that he was one of State’s best defensive players in this one and you’re looking at a kid that is close to being All-ACC caliber.
There’s only really one area that Cat really needs to start focusing on improving and it’s on his drives. When a player like Cat has gone his whole life as his team’s top scoring option, it’s normal for him to be focused on scoring as he drives the lane. In the league however, where the bigs are just dying for a guard to come in and challenge them, Barber MUST get better at driving, drawing and dishing. He gets in the lane at ease, he draws help defense with ease, and then he usually takes an off balance floater or attempts to draw the foul. If he can, at that moment, see the help coming and find the open man (whether it be a dump off or a kick-out) State’s offensive efficiency would be through the roof.
So far Barber’s stat line has been very impressive, but just like last year he tends to turn into more of a volume scorer than a ‘find your spots’ scorer. Don’t get us wrong, this team needs Barber to score at a high rate, but shooting percentage matters, especially for a PG who should be attempting to maximize points per possession.
Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner
Lacey was off in this one but Turner picked him up by going 5-9 from 3 and notching 24 points. These 2 guys give State some real scoring options and seem like they really work well off each other. Lacey was off but is looking really good to us. He’s such a smart player, understands space and constantly making smart decisions. Lacey has the ability to get into the lane, read the defense and then find the open man. Having 2 legitimate PGs on the court at all times is really going to be a plus for Gottfried.
The Bigs Struggled (Except for Freeman)
Again, I’d love to see Kyle Washington get a few physical lay ups before he starts falling in love with that baseline jumper. I know that if he was hitting it we would be praising him, but he’s not right now so I think instead of shooting until he makes one, he’d be better off getting inside, getting to the line and easing into his scoring. It’ll come for Washington, who is likely pressing right now to get off to a good start this season.
Many questioned why Freeman would start over Anya, but I think he kind of showed people why in this one. 9 points and 13 boards later he was the most dominant big that the Pack had out there. With Hofstra going zone, State was unable to really get their bigs much work. The bigs need to demand the ball against the zone and then create enough trust with the guards that they know if they dump it down it’s not a black hole. They need to use the bigs as a way to shift the zone, turn defenders heads, and then find the open man.
Next game is Thursday at 7pm against Jacksonville at the PNC Arena.
Pack Insider HIGHLIGHT REEL of NC State’s 93-61 Win Over UMES
NC State defeated Maryland Eastern Shore on Wednesday night 93-61, and 6 Wolfpack players scored in double figures. Check Pack Insider’s Highlight Reel ABOVE of the victory in Reynolds, which includes every basket NC State made.
You can also check out our breakdown of the game BY THE NUMBERS here.
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!