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Gameday: Keys for State to Take Down # 15 Carolina

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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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Wolfer96
Wolfer96
9 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 Men’s Basketball is Tied for the 20th Most NCAAT Wins Since 2020

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According to College Basketball Report, NC State’s Men’s Basketball team is tied for the 20th most NCAA Tournament wins since 2020.

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Yes, I’m fully aware that all 4 of those wins took place in this years NCAA Tournament, but I don’t care. STATS ARE STATS!

ACC Teams with the Most NCAAT Wins Since 2020

1. Duke – 8
2. UNC – 7
2. Miami – 7
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NC State Basketball

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The Basketball season is officially over, collegiately and professionally. Looking back at the data of viewers for Men’s & Women’s Basketball, as well as the NBA, the NC State Men’s Basketball team played in two of the Top-10 most watched games of the 2023-24 basketball season.

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NC State vs. Duke in the Elite 8 was the 2nd most watched basketball game of the year with 15.1 million viewers, trailing only Iowa vs. South Carolina in the Women’s College National Championship game. The Wolfpack’s game vs. the Boilermakers in the Final 4 ranked 9th, with 11.5 million viewers.

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NC State Basketball

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“Keep on improving my pace. Adjusting to the level and speed I’m going to have to play at, at all times.”

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Burns has worked out for the Lakers, Pacers and Hornets up to this point.

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Listen to the full interview above.

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NC State Basketball

DJ Horne reads his new children’s book “Why Not Me? Why Not Us?” to Wake County Students

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DJ Horne was a huge reason NC State overcame the odds to win the ACC Tournament this past season. Now he’s trying to pass on the ‘Why not us!?” psyche to elementary school kids.

Horne was at Jones Dairy Elementary to read his new children’s book “Why not me? Why not us?” to students yesterday.

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The book is based loosely on his life growing up, and the adversity he overcame to become a champion.

Pick up the book today at Amazon.

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