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.
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.
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.
NC State 84 BC 78: BOX SCORE
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.