The day started with a surprise snow storm that blanketed much of central North Carolina and it if the Wolfpack comes prepared it could end with a surprise upset heard ’round the ACC.
Despite a hard snow for much of the morning, ACC officials are saying the game will go on as planned. With NC State already in Chapel Hill, travel should not be a real issue for the team. What will be an issue is offensive rebounding, stopping Marcus Paige and finding a way to get Trevor Lacey going early.
Let’s take a deeper look at the keys to the game:
The bigs must come up big:
If NC State wants a shot in this game they are going to have to come ready to battle on the boards. UNC has made a living off of rebounding and scoring on the blocks. In the first meeting with Carolina Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks combined for 37 points and 19 boards. While State did win the rebounding battle the first time, it won’t be so easy on the road at UNC where the Heels have been playing great and have only lost 2 conference games (both to teams ranked in the top 15).
Gottfried has tinkered with his front court but has seemingly finally found something that works. That something is going with the more physical front line of Abu and Freeman (with Anya coming off the bench). The odd man out right now is Kyle Washington, however I wouldn’t count him totally out of this one. Washington gives State the ability to draw the UNC bigs out of the paint with his short baseline jumpers. In the first meeting it was Washington who really sparked the Pack with 17 points on 8-14 shooting.
Stop Marcus Paige
The junior point guard has made a living off of killing State. Last year he single handedly beat TJ Warren and the Pack at the PNC and just last month he was the catalyst in their victory over State with his 23 points and 9 assists. Stopping him is paramount and will fall on the shoulders of the red hot Cat Barber.
Barber has been a real reason State has turned the corer as of late and his confidence on offense has bled over to his tenacity on defense. All of the sudden he’s become the leader of this team and as the leader he has taken on a lot of new roles. Gottfried hopes today he takes the role of ‘stopper.’
Paige will also now have to be burdened by guarding Cat. In their first meeting he was guarding a guy who stood around the perimeter and passed side to side. Tonight he’ll face a different animal, one who never stops attacking and creating. This certainly will play a role on his fatigue level and hopefully take him out of his flow on offense.
Get Lacey Off
When Lacey gets going State is hard to stop. The problem he faced at the midseason mark was that teams would put bigger, stronger defenders on him. This made it tough for him to create space off the dribble for his pull up. He’s the nation’s leading isolation scorer, but against Carolina he won’t be able to shoot over top of anyone.
Lacey will certainly be hounded by JP Tokoto who is one of the ACC’s best defenders. Tokoto is long, tall and athletic, but he’ll be forced to really press up on Trevor. The good news is that over the past few games Lacey has opened up his game. All of the sudden he’s been finding success in attacking the basket. If he does this he is literally impossible to guard. Press up to close and he can muscle by you. Play off of him and you’ll get a jumper in the eye. If Lacey can get hot he can carry this team over the Heels, but if he allows Tokoto to shut him down like he did last time out (4-13 shooting), State will be in trouble.
Keep Ralston Hot
The other huge factor in this game is that Ralston Turner is getting hot again. Over the past few weeks Turner had gone ice cold and had really become a liability to the Pack, but as of late that’s starting to wear off. He’s dropped 28pts over the last 2 games and is shooting 50% from beyond the arc over that time. He’ll be guarded by Justin Jackson who, while tall and wirey, is not really great at chasing around a spot shooter. Turner getting his shot to fall early is huge for the Pack in this game.
If State can take care of those things then there’s no doubt they’ll be in a very good position to win this game, however even then the Heels are a tough matchup. This is a team playing their best basketball over the past two games. Remember, they were a few minutes away from knocking off Duke in Cameron before coming out a blowing GT out of the water 89-60. There is a lot on the line tonight and we should be in for a great matchup in the Smith Center.
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.