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NC State Basketball

Pack Claw Back, Beat Louisiana Tech 73-65



It was tough to stomach watching State sleep walk through the first half against La Tech.The Bulldogs replicated the approach that State struggled against in their matchup with West Virginia. They pressed them, trapped them and were very physical and aggressive on defense. Early on, State looked soft, scared and honestly like they didn’t feel like dealing with that type of pressure. Luckily, after getting down by as much as 18, that all changed.

Alex Hamilton and Raheem Appleby both put up 18pts each for the Bulldogs and it looked as if they were going to steamroll the Pack. They took a 39-24 lead into the break and grew that lead to 18 before the Pack decided to do something about it. Kyle Washington stepped up with some big shots early in the second and Cat Barber and Trevor Lacey turned it on late as the Wolfpack defense began getting stops, getting physical and taking what they wanted. Lacy’s jump step reverse layup (with the foul) finally gave State their first lead of the game, and they never looked back.

While they should have never had this type of scare, this game is going to be a huge marker for this team. They are going to look back at this game and say ‘that’s where things changed.’ This was the game that this team realized that if they want it, they can take it. It won’t be easy and it will take a ton of effort and emotion, but they if they’re hungry enough they can overcome anything.

Let’s take a look at the keys to this win…

Washington with the Spark
Credit this win to Kyle Washington. The sophomore forward came out in the second half ready to play. He hit a few shots, cranked up the intensity and got in his teammates faces, asking them if they actually wanted this game. Obviously, the answer ended up being yes, but it took Kyle leading by example and making plays on his own at first. He finished with 5-8 for 11 points and 10 boards (all 11pts coming in the second half) and was the key reason State decided to snap out of their funk and start playing basketball.

Barber Emerging
We’ve talked about it a lot recently, but Anthony Barber is finally coming alive. Over the past few games we’ve seen a different player. One who can still attack and still score when needed, but he’s become a much better decision maker. He’s passing up jumpers for better looks and driving to create, not just to score. He was once again great against La Tech. He finished with 17 points, 6 boards and 2 assists. Those stats, however, don’t do him justice. If it weren’t for a few blown finishes and a couple of fouls, Barber would have had 6 or 7 dimes in this one.

Character Win
This is a game that exposes it all. Sure it showed the Pack’s flaws, but it also made something very clear. This team is starting to build that ‘won’t lose’ attitude. They aren’t completely there yet, but mentally they are on the right track. This was a game where previous State teams would have laid down and accepted the beating. This team didn’t. They came together, decided they were going to do whatever it took to win, and they did. These are the types of games that are going to go a long way come ACC time.

Props to Gott
Coaching college basketball is not easy. When you lose the coach shoulders a majority of the blame, but when you win the players are the ones getting praised heaped all over them. I think it’s important to not only look at what the players did but also the position they were put in. For example, against La Tech Gottfried had to find the right group to attack this type of team. Anya proved to be a little too lumbering and while Freeman was rebounding, it was obvious that State needed to get their offense going down low. Gott went with Washington and Abu. Two high energy guys who can also give you offense from the blocks. This was huge. These guys were the catalyst for the turnaround. They out-physicalled and out hustled the Bulldogs in the second half. Washington and Abu combined for 21pts and 15 boards.

The other thing Gott did was to go to a little 3 quarter court trap in the second half. While this didn’t force a ton of turnovers, it changed the pace of the game. It sped up the Bulldogs and had them taking quick shots with players that were not used to scoring all that much. Throughout much of the second half, Appleby and Hamilton (both of whom had 18pts) weren’t as involved as they were early on.

Gott also was a maniac on the sidelines. He was begging and pleading with his team to wake up. He threw off the jacket, tossed away the tie and was a sweaty mess by the end of the game, but his team responded. They fed off of his energy, off the crowds energy and then off of their own energy in this win.

Lacey Never Stopped
Lacey never asked to be the go-to guy for this team, but he’s been counted on every night to be that player. He’s answered the bell in a resounding way, scoring over 17ppg and making tough shot after tough shot for this Wolfpack team. Against Louisiana Tech however, things weren’t falling. His teammates weren’t used to seeing him struggle, but when he did they didn’t know where to turn. Finally Washington stepped up, followed by Barber and Abu, and then Lacey finally came alive. He was only 5-18 shooting, but he never stopped taking the open shot, and when the clock started winding down Lacey, as he usually does, got hot.

Lacey is certainly an elite scorer, but he’s not going to be able to win games by himself. Him being off this game was actually a good things. It made others step up and realize that they are capable offensive threats as well.

Can’t Go Soft
This Pack team has some great jump shooters on it, but all too often they fall in love with those shots. They’ve been able to win a lot of games by being hot from the perimeter, but that’s not going to cut it when you start playing these physical teams. They are going to fight through screens and bump you off of your cuts, so getting to the hoop or getting open looks are just not going to be as easy. That’s why State NEEDS to start getting a reputation for physicality. Last night they started to get locked in and into the game when they started going inside. They started initiating the contact instead of shying away from it or accepting it. This team needs that grit. They need to take on that personality of a team that is just mean. Last night they took a step in that direction thanks to Kyle Washington and Malik Abu. If this team starts to enjoy contact and starts to come into games ready to physically wear teams down they’re going to be able to take this to the next level. Let’s hope last night was the start of something and not just a blip on the radar.

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8 years ago

After reading this post there are some points that I agree with and some I strongly disagree with. Firstly, I agree that the game ball goes to Kyle Washington. He really jump-started the offense and defense in the 2nd half. I don’t recall the last time that Kyle was able to contain and focus his high energy in a positive manner. He didn’t take long jumpers, he passed the ball, and he attacked the basket. This may be his best game of the season. Failing Grades: Coach Gott in the 1st half – Coach did not make the necessary adjustments… Read more »

NC State Basketball

Wolferetti: Feed me my crow. NC State lost to Creighton and I’m here to break it down (and admit I was wrong)



I was wrong.

I thought this matchup was a good one for NC State. I watched a lot of Creighton this year and to me, they looked like a team that NC State could roll over. Let me explain why.

I knew a few things. I knew Nembhard was a PG that could get a little out of control if sped up. I knew with a little defense and physicality, Sheierman could be made uncomfortable. I knew Kalkbrenner was a good defender but was going to sink on the pick-and-roll to protect the basket.

Joiner’s pull up just wouldn’t fall

I figured that Joiner, the pull-up king would be taking that DJ Burns screen, getting to the middle, and pulling up as Kalkbrenner sank. I figured Smith would exploit this as well. Well, turns out Joiner was off and couldn’t get his pull-up game going and Smith, well yeah Smith did exploit this pretty well.

Burns didn’t look like Burns

The other thing I’d figure would happen is that I thought DJ Burns would really frustrate Kalkbrenner. If you’ve looked at games where Kalkbrenner had to face a really good, physical back-to-the-basket big man, those bigs usually had pretty good games in the scoring column.  I honestly don’t understand what happened to Burns in this one. Sure he got a few stupid early fouls, but before he even picked up a foul he looked out of it. With no double teams coming, Burns is usually calculated, slowly backing you down and hitting you with a flurry of head fakes, pump fakes or spins. If the big doesn’t bite, Burns can fade away, go with a contested hook shot, or pass out.

In this game, Burns looked sped up for some reason. The first time he got the ball he quickly backed in and threw up a hook that rattled out. Not awful, but usually you see him probe a little more. Then the next time he didn’t even look for contact, instead, he threw up a little floater that didn’t fall. While neither were awful shots, both were uncharacteristic of Burns. On top of those things, he looked absolutely gassed within minutes of coming in. My guess is that it was the altitude, but either way, it took a toll on him.

Whatever it was, it had him frustrated and he had two really bad fouls where he just shoved Kalkbrenner (he also had a phantom foul that was ridiculous). That said, it just wasn’t his night and this made NC State a lot more one-dimensional.

Casey Morsell came to play, but this NC State roster just wasn’t built to get a guy like him going, which is a shame. Jarkel Joiner was a huge reason why NC State got to where they got. His scoring ability, his speed and his toughness and leadership skill were huge. But Joiner is a scoring guard, and great basketball teams need POINT guards.

What is a point guard, and why can’t we have one?

A point guard isn’t just a guy who dribbles it down. It’s a guy who understands the games within the games. Guys who dictate pace, call plays (sets) and are essentially coaches on the floor. NC State and Kevin Keatts never had that this season, and while you can get a long way with scoring guards and good big men, you’ll never compete for anything of worth until you prioritize the skill set of a true point guard. I think that has been NC State’s problem for years, and I find it kind of insane that coach after coach falls into this idea of having a scoring guard play as a PG for more offense to get on the court.

This is no shot at Jarkel, either. The guy was one of my favorite players to watch on this team, but it just is what it is. He is a scoring guard who happens to be slotting in at PG. When you see Keatts bring in a guy whose priority is getting his guys open and dictating pace, then you can start to believe that this program may be close to arriving. Until then, sneaking into the tournament and hoping guys get hot hands is as good as it gets.

Look at Kihei Clark (Virginia’s PG). I know it’s not a great time to be talking about Clark, whose errant pass ended up losing the game for Virginia on Thursday, but look at Clark’s build.5’10, 170lbs. Look at his stats. Mid-30s shooting % from 3. Hight 70s from the FT line. The guy is nothing special when it comes to the numbers, but he’s a leader and he distributes the basketball to the right guys at the right time. Tony Bennett has started Clark for 4 years despite the fact that he’s coaching a team that is always in the running to win the ACC and won a national championship less than 5 years ago.  He could replace Clark with an elite, tall, athlete at any moment. But he doesn’t. Why? Because he understands what I’m talking about. It’s a puzzle that coaches need to put together, and one piece of that puzzle is a guy like this.

I was wrong about this game. I thought things would play out differently. They didn’t. I’m not blaming anyone in particular, but the makeup of this team vs. the makeup of teams that play deep into March are different. Maybe this is step one to getting there. We’ll have to see how the roster shapes up next season.

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NC State Basketball

VIDEO: NC State falls to Creighton 72-63 in first round of NCAA Tournament | Extended Highlights & Box Score

NC State came out flat, DJ Burns looked gassed, and for the most part, the Pack looked shell-shocked vs. Creighton from the opening tip. However, Terquavion Smith is excluded from all of that. He was amazing and in what was likely his final game at NC State, he kept the Pack afloat, dropping 32 points on 12-25 shooting. In the end, it wasn’t enough as their big man, 7’1 Ryan Kalkbrenner went for 31.



NC State came out flat, DJ Burns looked gassed, and for the most part, the Pack looked shell-shocked vs. Creighton from the opening tip. However, Terquavion Smith is excluded from all of that. He was amazing and in what was likely his final game at NC State, he kept the Pack afloat, dropping 32 points on 12-25 shooting. In the end, it wasn’t enough as their big man, 7’1 Ryan Kalkbrenner went for 31.

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NC State Basketball

VIDEO: Smith, Joiner and Keatts talk in postgame press conference

Terquavion Smith, Jarkel Joiner and Kevin Keatts meet with the media after 72-63 loss to Creighton in the NCAA Tournament.



Terquavion Smith, Jarkel Joiner and Kevin Keatts meet with the media after 72-63 loss to Creighton in the NCAA Tournament.

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NC State Basketball

Wolferetti: 3 reasons why NC State is going to win today



God bless these guys over here at PI. I submitted this article to them this morning and got this back.

“Joey, this is a good piece, but are you sure you want to come out and say that NC State is going to win? Why not just do a ‘keys to the game.’ or something? Hedge your bets. Why are you always wanting to put your reputation on the line?”

To that I say, “Nah, I’m good. I want my reputation on the line. What fun is this if I’m not callin’ it like I see it?”

Look, they’ve been worried about me stating outlandish opinions before. Like when I said after game #1, after I first laid eye on this team, that it was going to be a team that will flirt with or get into the Top 25? I got hammered for that, but was I right? And today I’m back on my prediction tip, telling you that NC State will survive and advance. And here are my 3 reasons why.

1. Creighton hasn’t fared well against teams with great Turnover Margins.

If Creighton has a glaring weakness, it’s turnover margin.

NC State’s turnover margin ranks 16th in the NCAA. Creighton’s is a miserable 291st. This means Creighton turns the ball over a lot and doesn’t create many turnovers. Meanwhile, NC State is the exact opposite. They create a lot of turnovers and really protect the basketball. This statistic right here is going to play a major role. The Creighton guards, especially Nembhard, can get sped up, and when they do, they can get sloppy and out of control. Meanwhile, Joiner and Smith flourish at top speed.

Let’s look at the one team that Creighton lost to every time they played them (and played them multiple times). That team is Marquette.

What do Marquette and NC State have in common? Well, they are both Top 20 in the nation in Turnover Margin. Marquette ranks #3 in the NCAA while the Pack is 16th. Creighton turned it over 18 times in their first meeting at Marquette. The second time these two teams met, Creighton turned it over 15 times.

The other teams they faced in the Top 50 of Turnover Margin in the nation?

#39 Arizona State
#10 Texas

That’s it. And guess what, Creighton lost every single one of those games. They have yet to beat a team in the Top 50 in Turnover Margin.

Reminder. NC State ranks 16th.

2. Large, back-to-the-basket bigs have fared well against Creighton

6’9, 245lb, Adama Sanogo from UConn dropped 17 against them in a win.

6’9, 215lb, Oso Ighodaro from Marquette dropped 16 on them in their first meeting, and then 18 in their second.

6’7, 220lb, Bryce Hopkins from Providence scored 20 on them in both meetings. One of which was a win.

All of these guys are big, strong, back-to-the-basket bigs and all of them bullied their way to huge games again Creighton.

In all 3 instances, Creighton refused to double-team on most possessions and the big men ate. So how will they deal with a big that is bigger than any of these guys?

DJ Burns is 6’9, 275lbs and he’s going to be a focal point for NC State in this game. If Creighton opts to play Burns straight up, history says they are going to have a long night and Burn is going to have a big game.

3. Creighton hasn’t seen guards like Joiner and Smith

Sure Creighton has quick guards. Nembhard, the 6’0 PG rarely gets a matchup where he doesn’t have a quickness advantage. Today, against Joiner, he won’t have one. There is so much talk about Creighton’s guards bottling up their opponents, but watch them play and you’ll see that they simply haven’t had to face guys like Joiner or Smith. Creighton will allow the floor to be spread and will not fight against playing this game at a fast pace, and those are the types of games we’ve seen the NC State guards feast.

Creighton is a very good team. They have some very good pieces, but I just think they’ve found themselves in a matchup that isn’t very good for them despite being data-darlings. I could be wrong, but to me, this looks like a game where people are reading off statistics and making assumptions without watching film. Without looking at each team’s Achilles heel. And without really breaking down the matchups.

I think this is a really good matchup for the Pack and I think I’ll be back talking to you in about 24 hours looking at who the guys will play on Sunday.

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