Purdue used 16 pts from Vince Ewards and a combined 28pts from their pair of 7 footers to take down the Wolfpack 66-61 on Tuesday night. For State it was a tough to watch performance that wasn’t at all pretty, but they fought hard, kept it very close and almost pulled out a win. Let’s take a look at some of our game notes:
Dominated on the Boards
Let’s start with the rebounding. I’m not sure what you expected, but with Purdue running fresh 7 footers out there all night long it wasn’t very promising for the Pack. Anya and company did what they could, but the big, strong Purdue front line was too big and too strong for State. The rebounding differential was 37-31 Purdue, with the Boilermakers owning the offensive glass 16-9. The Wolfpack front line wont’ see many more talented 7 footers this season, so they can be thankful for that because they did not fare well against these guys.
Kyle Washington Steps Up
Really the only guy that played like ‘losing was not an option’ the entire night was Kyle Washington. The sophomore big was everywhere, fighting the Purdue front line for ever y rebound and every loose ball. He finished with 17 points and 9 boards and was really the only thing State had going offensively most of the night (aside from spurts of Lacey). Now, very few of Kyle’s shots were easy, or uncontested, but that really brings up a bigger problem for this team. Washington did what he had to do, but if this team is going to count on a shooting performance like that every night from this kid, they’ll likely be asking too much.
Poor, Poor Offensive Flow
The 66-61 loss will be used as a learning tool and should be looked at as a good, close road game for a young team, but if you want to be blunt about it—the offensive was awful. It was sloppy, it was disorganized and it was just downright hard to watch. I know for a fact that this team works hard on their zone offense because they know they’re going to have to use it a ton, but it didn’t look that way on Tuesday night. State worked so hard for every point they put up and if it weren’t for Kyle Washington and Trevor Lacey hitting some very tough shots, this game would have been a lot more lopsided.
You can sugar coat things here and there, and we do that often, but it’s another season and we’re seeing another team that is just seemingly clueless against a zone. The blame here falls on the guards. Plain and simple, the Wolfpack guards need to get back to basics and understand how to attack a 2-3. There is way too much slow rotation around the perimeter. Guards need to be very quick and very decisive against a 2-3. The idea is to get the zone moving and shifting, making defenders turn their heads and lose their men. You do this with very quick, crisp rotations, with misdirection, pass fakes and STRONG dribble drives into the gaps. The idea of driving into these gaps is rarely ever to score and every point guard should have been taught this at a very young age. The idea is to shift the zone, to make the defense make decision and then having the wherewithal to react to that decision. Rewatch the tape from last night and you’ll see tentative drives with guards missing the quick window to beat the zone on the shift. This leads to picked up dribbles and making dangerous passes to get out of trouble. There is too much thinking going on and not enough reacting. But part of that is because this team needs to reconstruct some of their instincts against the zone. Hoisting up a 3 on the swing, or driving full speed into the middle of a zone for a floater is exactly what the defense is asking you to do. Playing inside-out, driving to the middle, making the zone collapse and kicking it to the open man is how you beat this defense and until the guys buy into that we’ll continue to see much of the same.
As I rewatched the tape last night I noticed something that I feel I point out every season. State’s shooters are impatient and are not using their screens. Turner and Lacey rarely got a clean look last night. Why is that? Well, against a zone it really should be impossible to cover 2 dead-eye 3 point shooters, but Purdue was able to because State’s rotation against the zone was slow and methodical (see the paragraph above). Just back and forth without ball fakes or skip passes. Against the man defense however, they also struggled. They were setting screen for Lacey and Turner, but these guys were trying to use speed to get open and that’s a losing battle every time. Teams are just going to put quicker and smaller guys on Lacey and Ralston and completely take them out of their games if they don’t fix this. Getting open takes deception as well. Changing speeds, waiting for your screen then setting it up. Watch State on offense and you’ll see a team that is very rushed. They rarely walk down their man to set him up for a down screen. They rarely go off that screen shoulder to shoulder. And they rarely read the defender. If you go shoulder to shoulder off of a screen (and I mean brushing shoulders) you make the defender have to decide. Will he follow you or will he go under/around the screen. If he follows, then you have the opportunity to curl, keeping the defender on your back and initiating help defense. If he goes around or under the screen then you rework your angle and fade off of that screen when he gets directly on the back side of the screener. This creates the space you need for an open look. I know Purdue was really pushing and pulling and not allowing these guys to get where they wanted to go, but getting beat physically really should never be an excuse. Sure, this team is young, but these are basics that this team needs to understand if they are going to compete in this league. These are the small things, the minute details that are the difference between and easy bucket and a contested jumper.
Lacey With Another Big Performance, Cat still Figuring Things Out
Another good shooting night for a guy who looks to be an elite scorer thus far. Lacey dropped 15 points on 6-10 shooting (mostly all tough shots), dished out 3 assists and had a steal, all while committing 0 turnovers. This guy is a star and as the season goes on I think State will continue to learn how to use him. So far it seems like he’s not very productive when you put him off the ball and ask him to hunt his shot as a ‘catch and shoot’ type guy. Lacey has been the best with the ball in his hands, making things happen. He’s a very good passer and a very savvy player with great court awareness. As he continues to show this type of play he’ll start to eat into the minutes of Cat Barber. Lacey is proving to be the leader of this team and the guy State wants with the ball in his hands. Barber is still struggling mightily to pick up the role of floor general. He is not forcing things as much, but he still is working on vocal leadership and needs to have more feel for situations and game management. I honestly think the key for Cat is get his shot to fall. If he can’t knock down the 3 or hit that 18 footer with complete confidence then he becomes a true liability, especially against the zone, prompting Gottfried to go with Lacey, Caleb Martin and Turner up top. If Barber could knock that down short jumper regularly then he becomes a whole new weapon. Defensively teams won’t be able to play off of him as much, allowing his quickness to once again become a factor on the offensive end.
Defense, Physicality Takes a Step Back
Early on, we said this team was going to need to step up defensively. Early on, they did. They were in passing lanes, they were getting steals, they were harassing ball handlers. Unfortunately, that seems to have worn off. Right now State is one of the worst teams in the nation at creating turnovers. A lot of that has to do with lack of pressure up to. Purdue pressured State full court for most of the game. They made Cat Barber’s job hard. They made him work to get into the offense and they made point to point passes difficult by having a hand in the passing lane. State on the other hand allowed point to point passes, did not see ball and man when they were defending off the ball and constantly miscommunicated/lost their men and allowed wide open looks. The only guys that was constantly in the passing lane last night were the Martin twins. These two guys work hard, understand angles and are able to jump passing lanes by anticipating ball movement. Part of the problem last night was the dominance of the Purdue bigs. These guys were killing our bigs and State was forced to double. By doing that they had to leave their men on occasion. That hurt them all night long.
Physically, State looked like boys and Purdue like men. The Pack was straight up punished by Purdue’s physicality. Washington and at times Lacey were the only two guys that were (within the rules) playing very hungry, very physical basketball. I know Anya and Freeman were also playing physical down low, they were still reacting to Purdue’s contact instead of initiating the contact themselves. State is young and they can learn form this game, but being knocked out of your offense and off your game because of the oppositions physicality is the worst type of insult. Gottfried talked this past week in practice about mental toughness, playing through, and having a confidence and swagger about themselves. Well, the guys need to take this to heart and start carving out a reputation for being physical, not backing down, looking up to nobody. When that happens, we will finally see this team reach their potential.
Yes, there were positives
While we really focused on areas for improvement, State did show some good things last night. They did show fight, they did show some grit and they never went away. That is big for a young team on the road. Purdue made an early run. State answered. Then they made a late run that could have nailed the coffin shut, but it didn’t. Lacey and Washington made big shot after big shot and kept this team in the game.
They also shot the ball pretty well. I didn’t think they got many good looks, but they were able to make some pretty tough shots last night. This team can score, now if they can just work on getting some better looks they could be down right dangerous. Purdue has held all of their opponents aside from Kansas State to under 37% shooting. Last night State shot 45%. Now, free throws down the stretch were another story, but overall State scored the ball well despite very tough, hard working defense in their face for 40 minutes.
I also think that for most of the game State handled the intense pressure pretty well. The crowd was going nuts, they had some some questionable calls go against them (one HORRIBLY bad…and I mean, I’ve never seen this called in all my years watching college basketball. The ref had to be watching and waiting to make that call) and they still fought through and made it a game. For a young team, I think that can be counted as a step in the right direction.
NC State is a Slight Underdog in ACC Opener vs. Boston College
NC State (4-2) will play their first ACC game of the 2023-24 season tomorrow on the road against Boston College (5-2), and they enter the game as slight underdogs. The Wolfpack are 1.5-point underdogs, and the Total is 150.5.
- NC State is 0-2 Straight Up as underdogs
- BC is 4-1 Straight Up as favorites.
- NC State is 2-4 Against the Spread.
- BC is 4-3 Against the Spread
- The Total has gone Under in 2 games for NC State, Over in 3 and Pushed in 1.
- The Total has gone Under in 3 games for Boston College and Over in 4.
- NC State is 6-4 in their last 10 games against BC Straight Up.
- NC State is 4–6 Against the Spread in their last 10 games against BC.
- The Total has gone Under in 5 games, and Under in the other 5.
#5 NC State 70 Vanderbilt 62: BOX SCORE (with notes)
The 5th ranked NC State Women’s Basketball team improved to 8-0 tonight, defeating Vanderbilt 70-62 in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge.
- Saniya Rivers scored 20+ points for the 2nd time this season, scoring 22 points on 8 of 14 shooting. She also chipped in 8 rebounds and 2 steals.
- River Baldwin posted her first double-double of the season. She scored 12 points and grabbed 10 boards.
- Aziaha James has now scored in double figures in 7 of 8 games, scoring 14 points tonight, shooting 6 of 10 from the field and 2 of 3 from beyond the arc.
- Freshman Zoe Brooks led the Pack in steals (4) and assists (4).
- NC State didn’t shoot well, making only 39% of their shots. Fortunately, they held Vandy to 34.3% shooting.
The Wolfpack will host Illinois State on Sunday at 2pm.
NC State Stat Leaders Heading into the ACC Opener vs Boston College
This Saturday, NC State heads to Boston College for the now-annual early ACC opener. The Pack will face off against the Eagles at 4pm on ACC Network. Here is where the team is statistically after 6 games.
- Casey Morsell leads NC State in scoring with 14.5 ppg.
- The Pack has 4 double-digit scorers this season. Morsell (14.5), Jayden Taylor (13.3), DJ Burns (13) and DJ Horne (11.2)
(Last season State had 4 double-digit scorers as well. Terquavion (17.9), Joiner (17), Burns (12.5) and Morsell (11.8))
- After their top 4 scorers there is a big dip. Parker comes in at 6.8, O’Connell at 6.3, and Middlebrooks at 5.5 ppg.
(Last season Jack Clark was 5th on the team in scoring at 9 points and Mahorcic was at 8.7. However, both guys missed a large chunk of the season.)
- Burns is leading NC State in rebounding this year at 5.3 per game. Diarra is next with 5.3 (but is currently hampered by an ankle injury.)
- O’Connell is leading NC State in assists with 3.3 per game, and Burns is up next with 2.5. PG DJ Horne is only averaging 2.
- LJ Thomas and Mike O’Connell are tied in leading the team at .15 assists per minute.
- Jayden Taylor is leading NC State in 3pt %, shooting an outstanding 45.8%, while Morsell is up next at 34.6%. Horne is close behind at 33%.
(LJ Thomas is shooting 50% from 3, but only has 2 attempts.)
- Burns is leading the bigs, shooting 56.5% from the floor, while Middlebrooks is close behind at 54.2%. Dennis Parker Jr is coming in at 45.2%.
- For the guards, it’s Casey Morsell leading the way at 44.6% from the floor, while O’Connell is next up at 43.4%. Taylor is shooting 42.4%, and DJ Horne is struggling a bit, shooting just 34.8% from the field.
- Jayden Taylor is turning the ball over the most at 1.8 times per game, while Burns is next at 1.7. Morsell is at 1.5 and O’Connell is at 1.2. DJ Horne has been doing a good job of protecting the basketball, turning it over just .3 times per game.
NC State 52 Ole Miss 72: Box Score (with notes)
NC State’s Men’s Basketball team lost it’s second straight game tonight, losing 52-72 on the road at Ole Miss in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge. Below is the Box Score with some notes below.
- Ben Middlebrooks posted a double-double, with 13 points and 12 boards. To be honest, Middlebrooks was the only bright spot in this game.
- Casey Morsell was the only other player to score in double figures (12 points), but it wasn’t pretty, shooting 5 of 14 from the field.
- One of the poorest statistical shooting performance I can remember.
- NC State shot 31.8% from the field and 12% from three (3-25).
- The Wolfpack’s DNA on defense is turning over their opponent, and they were unable to do so tonight, turning over the Rebels only 7 times.
- For comparison, the Wolfpack turned it over 13 times, giving them a Turnover Margin tonight of -6.
- Heading into tonight, they averaged a Turnover Margin of +7.8.
- Ole Miss scored 13 points off of turnovers, compared to NC State’s 4.
- This is the first time this season that NC State failed to force their opponent to commit at least 10 turovers.
- NC State was -25 when D.J. Burns was on the court, which was the worst on the team.
- NC State was +3 when L.J. Thomas was on the court, and +2 when Ben Middlebrooks were on the court. They were the only two players in the positive.
- Thomas and Middlebrooks should have earned themselves some more playing time going forward.
- Ole Miss’ length was problematic for the Wolfpack, blocking 9 of their shots.
There will be more analysis on this game coming tomorrow.