Looks like the days are no more where when NC State struggles on offense they struggle to win. This team is built on solid defense and max effort. They showed those things all night against Jacksonville as they took them to the wood shed 79-43. Here are some notable from last nights game.
Defense, Defense, Defense
Sure, it’s exciting to watch a fast paced, high octane offense, but you know what’s even better? Watching a hard nosed, gritty team that relies on it’s defense to create their offense. Now, this isn’t just your ‘solid,’ ‘smart’ defensive team that is all about position and communication, this is a defense that wants it, they’re in the passing lanes, starving for the steal, dying to turn you over. Yeah, they communicate and have shown great positioning and help side D, but the difference is the effort. In fact, you can see a difference on the sidelines as well. Coach Gottfried, who was always known as an offensive coach is screaming at his players to get in the passing lanes, provide more effort and to turn them over. With a team this deep, this long and this quick, teams are going to have a heck of a time trying to get clean shots off.
Just take last night for example. Jacksonville shot only 23% for the game and struggled to even get the ball to the basket at times. More on that later. The point is, this Wolfpack team is buying in on the defensive end of the floor and it’s very exciting to see. It’s starting up top with the constant harassment that Lacey and Barber and putting on the opposing guards and it’s trickling down to the bigs.
Beejay Anya’s Block Party
The big man was just insane last night. Beejay swatted almost every shot Jacksonville put up in his vicinity. At one point he had blocked 4 consecutive shots and should have had a 5th but the ball went in the basket (counting as a made FG instead). When the dust settled NC State had a new single-game blocks leader. Anya finished with 10, passing Todd Fuller and Thurl Bailey who both were tied with 9. The crazy thing is, he could have had a couple more. His 10th block came with 15 minutes left in the game, but he didn’t play much more as the Pack already had the game in check.
Beejay is going to be a huge factor for the Pack this year. Every great defensive team has an enforcer in the middle and there might not be a better one in the ACC .
Caleb Earning PT?
State’s offense was really struggling at the start of this one, but when Caleb Martin entered things started changing. The freshman forward came in and ignited a 13-0 run that gave State that momentum they carried through the rest of the game. We’ve been wondering who was going to step up and be the go-to scorer for the Pack and we were having a hard time figuring it out. Lacey was always the defacto choice and Ralston Turner was another guy we thought could be the guy, but early on neither of those two have shown elite scoring abilities.
Turner is hampered by his inability to score going to the basket and Lacey, while silky smooth, seems like more of a secondary scorer than a go-to type guy. I’m not claiming Caleb Martin is going to lead this team in scoring, but I think you’re going to see him blossom into that go-to guy role. The twins have always been two of our favorite recruits State has landed since Julius Hodge and they are already showing you why. Their coachability, their motor and their skill set has Gottfried already finding it hard to take them off the floor, Caleb especially.
Last night when it seemed like everyone was off and State was going to have one of those nights offensively, Caleb entered and immediately got aggressive, taking the ball to the rim and making something happen on both ends of the floor. A few 3s and a couple steals later and State is off and running. Caleb finished with a game high 16 points on 6-10 shooting and 3-5 from 3point range.
Cat Barber Working Into Role
You might see Barber’s 9 point, 1 assist, 5 turnover line and think he played awful. While he was off and did have some miscues with the ball, I think you got to see a more patient player last night. He was getting into the lane, creating havoc and finding the open man. The problem was that the open men were not making shots. Cat really should have had around 5 or 6 assists in this one (maybe more?). Now, there’s no excuse for the turnovers, but he’ll work that out.
I just think he played a smarter game as a PG last night and although the stats tell a different story, I’m pleased with the way he ran the team when he was in there. He picked his spots, didn’t get caught inside amongst the trees trying to make something out of nothing, and when in doubt he shook his man and got a nice clean look at the mid range. These shots will fall and he’ll be smarter with the basketball as the season goes on, but the thing that was great to see was his patience and his desire to get his teammates good, clean looks. Barber is an x-factor on this team, as we keep saying, and him being a floor general is paramount to this team’s success and to his future at the next level as a PG.
Freeman, The Quiet Workhorse
You’re not going to see him with many highlight reels and you’re not going to see him lead the team in scoring, but Lennard Freeman is doing a TON of dirty work for this basketball team. He’s filling the Richard Howell role pretty nicely right now and it won’t be going unnoticed for much longer. Freeman put up another nice game, notching a double-double with 10 points and 12 boards. He didn’t turn the ball over and he only fouled one time. He also took a charge. Freeman was an afterthought in the rankings when he was recruited and not many people saw him as a starter this season, but low and behold Lennard is State’s most important big at this moment and it’s going to be very hard to keep him off the court.
Next up is USF on Sunday at 4pm at the PNC. We’ll have more on that game as it approaches.
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!