NC State vs. #22 West Virginia
9:30 PM | Madison Square Garden, NYC | ESPN2
In arguable the most historic basketball venue, NC State is getting set to face off against West Virginia tonight at 9:30pm.
The Bob Huggins led Mountaineers are off to a great start. Ranked #22 in the nation, these guys are 9-1 and already have a win over #17 UConn and bring to the table the #1 ranked defense in the nation. Averaging 13.7 steals per game and forcing turnovers on over 30% of their opponents possessions, the Mountaineers will be a tough challenge for the Pack.
The good news is that NC State is coming off of a hard fought win over another very physical, very defensive team in Tennessee. But West Virginia isn’t just a one sided coin. They also have an offense that ranks 28th in the nation in points per game. They do it with the help of All-American PG Juwan Staten. Staten is a 6’1 senior who averages 15 points and 4 assists per game. He does it by creating off the dribble, getting to the rim or knocking down a midrange jumper. He’s only shooting about two 3s per game, so he’s not trying to beat you from beyond the arc. State will have to limit Staten’s penetration if they want a shot in this one.
How West Virginia does it…
WVU isn’t a one man show by any means. They have 3 guys averaging in double figures and two more guys getting more than 7 per game. They are led by Staten, but they also have 6’7 senior Jonathan Holton and 6’9 senior forward Devin Williams. These guys are strong, active and talented. Like any Bob Huggins led team, they are going to be scrappy, in your face and very physical. They like to generate offense off of their turnovers, so protecting the basketball is going to be paramount. They also aren’t going to shoot you out of the gym. Their best options from the perimeter are Staten and Daxter Miles Jr, both of whom are shooting a pedestrian 35% from 3. Stopping the penetration and keeping their bigs from getting too deep should be two areas of emphasis for the Wolfpack defense.
How State can win…
Stopping Staten will be a start. He’s a shoot first PG who is trying hard to become more of a floor general. If State can can keep him from going off, they will have a real shot at winning this game. Defense is going to be huge, but getting going offensively is going to be the bigger task. WVU plays crazy defense. They are in passing lanes, going for steals and playing very physical basketball. The Pack did a great job of handling this kind of defense from Tennessee, but the Mountaineers bring it to the next level. Cat Barber, Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner are going to have to be very strong with the basketball. No weak passes, no letting their guard down, because the minute they do, the Mountaineers will jump all over them.
Huggins group is also a big, strong rebounding group and the Wolfpack bigs are going to need to step up tonight. Anya needs to stay out of foul trouble and Abu, Washington and Freeman are going to have to ready to fight on the glass. Meanwhile, this might be a nice matchup for Abu. He has been coming on strong and this is a game where his motor and physicality can really come in handy.
State is holding opponents to around 36% shooting, which is really good and they have a chance to do that again against the Mountaineers. As a collective group they simply are struggling shooting the basketball. If they aren’t getting to the rim or controlling the offensive glass, they can go through long stretches of sloppy offensive basketball. State needs to make sure this happens tonight by pestering the guards and really not backing down to the physicality of the bigs.
Key Players for State….
Cat Barber‘s play is going to be huge. I thought he played the best game of his young career against Tennessee. It wasn’t so much the stat line, although he did have 8 assists and only 1 TO, but he also played smart basketball and made good decisions all night long. Barber only shot the ball 3 times, and all 3 were good shots. This is the type of game we’ll need to see out of him tonight. Sure, there will be times when he needs to score it, but he is starting to understand his strengths and weaknesses and play accordingly. Protecting the ball and getting it to the right people at the right time will go a long way in leaving NYC with a victory tonight.
Trevor Lacey is another guy who obviously will be big for the Pack. State is doing a better job of running their offense and getting good looks, but against WVU it’s going to be tougher. They’re not going to be getting a ton of clean looks like they did against Tennessee last time out. They’re going to have to work for their buckets and when things get out of control (and they will with the frantic pressure of the Mountaineers) it’s going to have to be Lacey isolating and scoring.
Anya/Abu – These guys were a great combo against Tennessee and they’re going to be a big part of whatever happens tonight. West Virginia is going to attack inside and Anya and Abu need to be physical enforcers who both protect the rim and own the glass. If the guards can slow down Staten and the Abu and Anya can match the intensity and physicality of their bigs, State has a great shot at this one.
NC State to Honor David Thompson with Statue Outside Reynolds Coliseum
RALEIGH – NC State University will pay tribute to three-time All-American David Thompson with a statue sculpted in his honor that will be placed outside of Reynolds Coliseum.
The unveiling will take place at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 6, the day of the Wolfpack men’s basketball team’s annual Heritage Game at Reynolds Coliseum, and will be open to the public.
“This is such a deserved honor for the greatest basketball player to ever wear an NC State jersey,” NC State Director of Athletics Boo Corrigan said. “He is one of the most iconic players to ever play in the ACC and our hope is that this statue will ensure that generations of NC State students and fans will always remember the legacy and contributions of David Thompson.”
Thompson is widely recognized as one of the greatest players in college basketball history. A 2008 ESPN story ranked him as one of the ten best college basketball players of all-time, and he is regarded as one of greatest athletes in Atlantic Coast Conference history.
The Boiling Spring, N.C., native played three seasons at NC State from 1972-75 and was a unanimous first-team All-American at the conclusion of all three seasons. He was also named the ACC Player of the Year all three seasons.
He was named the Associated Press National Player of the Year in 1974 and 1975 and remains one of just five players in college basketball history to win multiple AP National Player of the Year honors.
Thompson immediately made his mark on the Pack, helping lead NC State to an undefeated season (27-0) in 1973. The Pack dominated the 1972-73 season and was at the top or near the top of the polls all season as Thompson averaged 24.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
Thompson returned in the 1973-74 season and led the Wolfpack to a 30-1 record and the school’s first NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball National Title.
In the Final Four, Thompson and the Wolfpack met up with UCLA, the seven-time reigning National Champions and the only team to have defeated NC State that season. The Pack trailed 74-67 in the second overtime when Thompson’s heroics helped lead NC State back. Thompson pulled down a defensive rebound and made the go-ahead basket with under one minute remaining and then made two free throws with 38 seconds to go to give the Pack a 78-75 double overtime win in a game that is still considered one of the greatest Final Four games ever played.
Thompson finished the game with 28 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Bill Walton and the Bruins.
Two nights later, the Pack won the National Title over Marquette, 76-64, behind 21 points from Thompson. Thompson was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
To make it into the NCAA Tournament, the Pack defeated fourth-ranked Maryland, 103-100, in overtime in the 1974 ACC Championship, in a game that is routinely considered one of the best games in college basketball history.
As a senior, Thompson averaged 29.9 points, still the highest single season average in NC State history. He scored an NC State and ACC record 57 points in an early season win over Buffalo State. The Pack started the season ranked No. 1 in the nation and never fell out of the top-10, but lost in the ACC Championship game to end its season. The Pack finished the season ranked seventh in the nation but because the NCAA Tournament at that time only allowed the conference champion into the tournament its season was over.
Thompson closed his career with 2,309 points in 86 career games. He led the ACC in scoring all three seasons and was NC State and the ACC’s career scoring leader when he graduated.
Former NC State Basketball Player Torin Dorn Joins Coaching Staff of G-League SLC Stars
Former NC State basketball player Torin Dorn has joined the staff of the Salt Lake City Stars, the G-League team for the Utah Jazz. Dorn’s title is Player Development Associate/Assistant Coach.
After playing 3 seasons at NC State, Dorn went on to play professionally overseas in Poland and Czech Republic, before joining the Wolfpack coaching staff last season as a Graduate Manager.
Dorn will be working under newly appointed head coach Steve Wojciechowski (former Duke PG), who was the head coach at Marquette the past 7 seasons.
NC State Guard MJ Rice Will Be Returning Soon After Stepping Away for a Period of Time
NC State Guard MJ Rice (6’5″/215) announced yesterday that due to personal reasons, he had to step away from the basketball program, but was excited to be back with his teammates soon. He was clear that his commitment to NC State hasn’t wavered.
Life is much bigger than sports. These young men are human beings first and foremost, and as we all know, this life is never simple and easy.
Rice transferred to NC State this offseason from Kansas with three years of eligibility remaining. The former High School McDonald’s All-American didn’t get a lot of playing time in his Freshman season at Kansas, averaging 7.6 minutes per game in only 23 games played.
Coming out of Prolific Prep in California, Rice averaged 20.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a Senior. Rivals ranked him as a 5-star prospect, ON3 ranked him 24th nationally, and ESPN ranked him as the #1 player in the state of North Carolina.
Whatever Rice is working through, we value him as a person more than we do a player.
NC State Announces Hiring of Larry Dixon as NC State Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach
RALEIGH – NC State men’s basketball head coach Kevin Keatts announced Wednesday that Larry Dixon has joined his staff as an assistant coach.
Dixon comes to NC State after spending the last five seasons as an assistant coach at South Florida.
The NCAA Division I Board of Directors voted in January to allow two more assistant coaches on men’s basketball staffs. Dixon, will serve as one of the Pack’s two new assistant coaches that can engage in coaching activities but may not recruit off campus.
“I think Larry is a great addition to our staff,” Keatts said. “He’s a North Carolina native that has dedicated himself to a coaching career since graduating from college. He started at the high school level in North Carolina and eventually moved up to college and now has been a Division I assistant coach for almost 20 years. I think his experience is going to be a great asset for me and our coaching staff, as well as the young men in our program as we develop them on and off the court.”
Larry Dixon joined the USF coaching staff as assistant coach on May 12, 2018.
In just his second season with the team in 2018-19, Dixon helped USF to the top win turnaround in the NCAA during the 2018-19 season, as the Bulls won 14 more games than the previous season. In addition, USF turned in a 24-14 overall record to set a new single-season school record for wins. The Bulls would go on to win the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) championship and claim the program’s first postseason title since 1990.
Dixon also played an instrumental role in the development of 2019 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year Laquincy Rideau and 2019 American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year Alexis Yetna.
Dixon helped USF become one of the top defensive teams in the NCAA during the 2019-20 season, finishing the year ranked 20th in scoring defense by allowing only 62.7 points per game. The Bulls limited eight teams to fewer than 60 points during the season and held 27 of their 31 opponents under their scoring average at the time of play. The Bulls also ranked 44th in the nation in turnovers forced with 15.6 per game, and stood 65th in the NCAA in steals with 7.5 thefts per game.
In 2021-22, Dixon helped develop Russel Tchewa and Corey Walker Jr. into one of the best frontcourt tandems in the league. The Bulls were again among the top defensive teams in the country, ranking 45th in the NCAA in scoring defense (64.9 ppg).
Dixon came to Tampa after five seasons as an assistant at Georgia Southern under head coach Mark Byington. Prior to his stint with the Eagles, Dixon had collegiate assistant coaching jobs at Winthrop (2007-12), East Carolina (2005-07), South Carolina State (2003-05) and St. Andrews College (2002-03).
In his final season at Georgia Southern, Dixon helped lead the Eagles to a 21-12 record, including an 11-7 mark in the Sun Belt. In 2016-17, he helped Georgia Southern reach the postseason for the first time since 2006, playing in the College Basketball Invitational.
Prior to arriving at Georgia Southern, Dixon spent the 2012-13 season as head coach at York Comprehensive High School in York, S.C.
During his five seasons (2007-12) on the coaching staff at Winthrop under head coach Randy Peele, Dixon was recognized as the top assistant coach in the Big South by Fox Sports.
Before entering the college game, Dixon served as the head coach at Garinger High School in Charlotte, N.C. for three seasons. In 2001, he led Garinger to a North Carolina High School sectional championship and earned Mecklenburg County Coach of the Year honors from the Charlotte Observer. Dixon also spent one season as an assistant at Carver High School in Winston-Salem, N.C. and one season at South Rowan High School in his hometown of Salisbury, N.C.
Dixon graduated from Johnson C. Smith University (Charlotte, N.C) in 1996, where he was a four-year letterman as a player. He was named the team’s most improved player following his junior season and the top defensive player after his senior season. He helped the Golden Bulls to a pair of CIAA Southern Division titles and a championship game appearance as a sophomore.
A native of Salisbury, N.C., Dixon has two children, Devin and Leah.