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Gameday: Keys for State to Take Down # 15 Carolina



NC State Wolfpack vs. UNC Tarheels
7pm | ESPN2 | PNC Arena, Raleigh

NC State is riding high after a convincing home beat down of #2 Duke, but there is no time to celebrate with #15 UNC coming to Raleigh. The rival Heels have had somewhat of an up and down start to their season thus far. With losses to Butler and Iowa in the early goings balanced by wins over Ohio State and Louisville, Carolina is kind of hard to figure out.

On one hand the Heels are a big team that plays very good defense, dominates the boards and really shares the basketball. On the other hand they really struggle to score from the perimeter. A lot hinges on the play of junior PG Marcus Paige. Paige was a guy who led this team last year, shooting a stellar 45% from the field and nearly 40% from 3pt range. Nearly everyone expected that to continue, however his numbers have regressed back to the range most projected for him coming out of high school and after his freshman season.

Now, before you go writing off Paige, realize that he’s capable of getting hot. He is coming off a game winning shot and he is averaging a team leading 13ppg. That being said, this is NC State and we all know that players LOVE to come out of hibernation against the Pack. Watch for Paige to push to regain his form from last season and come out firing.

They may have a few advantages here or there, but overall this is a very evenly matched game. State has a lot of momentum coming off that big win over Duke, but UNC has the same feeling after winning against #5 Louisville. This game is going to come down to matchups. Who will be able to exploit who.

With that said, here are our 3 keys to an NC State victory.

1 | Keep them off the boards!
UNC is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation. They have done a great job at keeping their opponents off the glass with sheer size and lots of physicality. Meeks and Johnson lead the team by brining down 9 and 7 respectively. Keeping these guys off the glass will be the job of Anya, Abu and Washington. State did a good job of this against Duke but the Blue Devils don’t have nearly the same size and strength as the Heels. State will need to be ready to battle in the paint.

Then there is JP Tokoto. This guys is somewhat of an x-factor for the Heels. Talent wise he’s just semi-skilled, but what he lacks there he makes up for with athleticism, size and hustle. The guy grabs 5 boards per game, leads the team with 4 assists per game (he IS very a good passer), and is their shut down defender at 6’5.

The other key with rebounding is keeping UNC from getting second chance points. Meeks and Johnson love to make a living on cleaning up the offensive glass. For the season they have a total of 93 offensive boards, which is pretty impressive. Just for comparison sake, Meeks has 54 and Bryce Johnson has 39, while Lennard Freeman leads State with 33. This means State desperately needs to put a body on these bigs.

2 | Bottle up Paige and a Big
I know, I know, Marcus Paige is having a down year, but that doesn’t mean he can’t come out and drop a 35 spot on State like he did last year. This year he obviously has had his problems, but he is still the team leader at 13ppg. Barber will be tasked with doing this for most of the night.

In all of UNC’s losses either Johnson or Meeks have had a poor offensive outing. When both of these guys get going State will be in trouble, but holding Paige below his average and keeping either Meeks or Johnson in single digits would very likely equal a win. Carolina really struggles from beyond the arc, and if Paige isn’t hitting his 3s than no one really is. Nate Britt can knock down the open 3, but his height and style of play doesn’t really lend itself to a takeover from beyond the arc. This means that they’re going to have to beat State in the middle and that means Anya is going to have to be an enforcer. Altering and blocking some shots early (and STAYING OUT OF FOUL TROUBLE) will go a long, long way in giving State the win.

3 | Execute the offense
One reason State was able to take out Duke was thanks to the ability to move the ball on offense and get open shots. It was exciting to see them working the high-low, and doing a great job of interior passing. They were patient in their cuts, and got a few open UCLA cuts. This led to the defense helping off which led to a quick pass to the opposite block big for a dunk. Abu got a bunch, Freeman got one or two and so did Anya. Washington did a good job of making this cut and making that pass. State will need the same kind of teamwork we saw last weekend.

They are also going to need Lacey and Turner to show up. These guys are the keys almost every game. They both need to come out hungry against this UNC team that really might have trouble guarding them. With that, let’s take a look at the matchups.

Paige vs. Barber
At this point I’ll give a slight advantage to Paige. He’s more of a scorer and has shown that he can be a preime time guy. Barber is playing better, making better decisions and is starting to become more of a floor leader. Barber’s defense is probably on par with Paige’s, but the ability for Paige to have a huge game is always there. We’ll give the edge to him in this one.

JP Tokato vs Trevor Lacey
Tokato is going to make things tough on Lacey. He’s one of the leagues better defenders and is someone who is going to be able to elevate with him on the pull-up. Lacey has made a living early on with his ability to elevate over his defender and hit shots. Tokato is going to take that away, so it will be interesting to see how Trevor handles that. Tokato offensively is just a fast break finisher and a good passer. He can score at times, but really that shouldn’t be a focus of the Pack. Lacey has the ability to change the game with his jumper so we’re going to go with Lacey on this one.

Justin Jackson vs Ralston Turner 
A budding 6’8 freshman who is essentially a guard vs. a senior shooter. Kind of a mismatch on both ends, but Jackson really hasn’t shown much consistency while Turner has kind of notched himself in as the conference most deadly threat from beyond the arc. Does Jackson have the focus and ability to chase Turner all over the floor? He has the height to make up for a few lost steps, but he’ll have to keep his head on a swivel all night long as Turner weaves and slips around screen after screen. At this point we’ve got to say advantage Turner.

Brice Johnson vs Kyle Washington
Are we talking about Washington the guy that shoots every time he touches it, or Washington the guy who played against Duke. Who rebounded, and passed and knocked down open shots? If it’s that Washington then that makes this a different story. Brice Johnson is annoying to me. His body language looks like a guy with absolutely no confidence, but then when he makes a play he hypes himself up beyond belief. He can shoot, he can rebound and he’s definitely a good player. He is averaging 11 pts and 7 boards while Washington is averaging 7pts and 5 boards. Honestly, these two guys are very similar and with Washington is coming off such a great game that I’m going to say this is a push.

Kennedy Meeks vs Beejay Anya
This is the matchup of the game. The two bigs who came out in the same class and constantly battled on the AAU circuit will meet tonight. Meeks came in a little more college ready and had success early on. That success has led to this season where he really is the best guy on this Carolina team. Then there is Anya who just wasn’t physically ready last year. But after shedding weight and working on his game he’s become one of the ACC’s most improved players. Anya had the best game of his career against Duke and he is certainly charged up to show Meeks that he’s ready to start battling again. But until he can really do it in a game, you’d have to give the current advantage to Meeks.


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8 years ago

Man was Lacey horrible this game. Cat Barber was useless. I thought we could have won this game.  Coach Gott made some crucial mistakes. He kept Cat and Lacey in the game way too long. They were obviously still hungover from the duke game. Some time on the pine would have actually helped them. I thought we stayed in the zone a little too long. unc figured that out pretty quickly. And that timeout near the end of the game was stupid. That allowed old Roy to get his foul plan into action. Dez Lee should have come in for… Read more »

NC State Basketball

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.

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NC State Basketball

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.

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NC State Basketball

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.

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NC State Basketball

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.

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