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There is no way around it, NC State needs to beat the Heels today in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels enter the game as one of the top 5 teams in the country, while the Wolfpack limps in at 0-4 in ACC play.

The Heels (a 16pt favorite) sport a balanced attack. They can beat you at the guard position where Marcus Paige is averaging 15ppg. He’s being backed up by Joel Berry II who is right behind him at 13 ppg. Down low they are a team that is rapidly gaining confidence. Brice Johnson is leading the way at 17ppg and 10 rebounds. After years of uneven play from him, somehow Roy Williams has convinced Brice to toughen up and it’s really helped the Heels. Then there’s always Isaiah Hicks (who put up 21 last time out), Justin Jackson (who is averaging 13ppg and shooting 50% from the field), and of course Kennedy Meeks (who is just working his way back from injury, but is always a factor.) When you look at this UNC team on paper, they are scary good. They have the bigs, they have the guards, they have the size and athletic ability to really play with anybody. So, is there really any way State can stop them? If there is, these will certainly be the keys…

A huge game from Cat Barber
State is going to need Barber to play huge. We’re not talking about him just having a hot shooting night. We’re talking about him stepping up as a vocal leader, dictating the pace, getting his teammates involved, and shutting down Paige on defense. This is the perfect time for Barber to transition from scoring point guard to team leader. Cat is certainly capable of this type of performance, but will he have the energy? UNC is likely going to put some pressure on him in the backcourt and make him work to even get into the offense. Gottfried is going to have to use his timeouts wisely and steal some minutes with Cat on the bench getting a breather if he wants his PG to be fresh on both ends of the floor.

Abu dominance
Last game against FSU, Abu finally looked like the dominant post presence he became at the end of last season. He was physical, strong, relentless and aggressive. UNC has some major size on the blocks and their bench goes deep. Abu is going to have to by as physical as ever while staying out of foul trouble. This has something he’s never quite mastered, but there’s not better time to turn over a new leaf than against your arch-rival in a must win game. Cat is their #1 option, but Abu has to become #2 if this team wants a chance today.

Defensive Gameplan
How is Gottfried going to attack this UNC team on D? While he might come out in a straight up man to man, he’s likely going to want to switch up some looks. With his thin bench against UNC’s depth, State might have to look into a little matchup zone against the Heels. The problem with that is that the Heels also have guys like Johnson and Meeks that can get into the gaps of that zone and knock down short jumpers. It will be interesting to see how he game plans against the Heels. To be perfectly honest, State really does not matchup that well against this team. Gott may very well opt for State to really pack down in the middle and make the UNC guards shoot their way to a win.

Play smart/disciplined basketball 
NC State is not going to win this game if they play the same way they’ve played thus far this season. That’s a harsh reality, but unless UNC absolutely lays an egg, the style of ball the Pack has played isn’t enough here. They are going to need to need to show patience in their offensive sets. Every possession is going matter and they need to cherish each and ever one to maximize efficiency.

They are going to need to be aggressive but calculated on defense. Playing in the passing lanes and making it tough for the UNC guards to make point to point passes or clean entry passes is big. This is where State can create turnovers and chaos without gambling. This would extend the defense a bit more and allow some more room for the bigs to operate, so if the UNC bigs start taking over, Gott may have to call back the guards and really pack in the defense.

They need to contest shots, not try to block them. Too many times teams have pump faked or shot over top of a jumping Pack defender and it’s led to a breakdown of the NC State defense. A simple pump fake that gets a guard off his feet sets in motion a situation that this team just hasn’t handled. The opposing guard gets a guard off his feet with a pump fake from 3. He then puts in on the floor to attack. Beejay or Abu usually steps up to stop the drive, but NC State’s rotation to cover Beejay or Abu’s man is just too slow. The times they do get there, the next level of rotation never happens and a 3 point shooter is left wide open. Instead, the Wolfpack guards need to close out with a hand in the defenders face, but keep balance enough to react to the pump fake. If they shoot over you and make it, let them. Those shots are the ones you don’t mind giving up.

For the bigs it’s the same thing. Too often Beejay Anya or another big comes help side for the block, leaving their man without a body on him. This is a major gamble. Great shot blockers are not just athletic, but they are smart. They know when to take that gamble and when to not. They know their limits, and the consequences if they don’t get the block. Too often the NC State bigs are helping out, looking for the weakside block, but missing. This is leading to an easy put back by the offensive rebounder. The Pack has some good shot blockers, but they simply need to pick and choose their spots.

Can Mav and Caleb connect?
We talked extensively about the struggles of two guys that NC State was really counting on for perimeter scoring. Rowan and Caleb Martin are good shooters, but just have not found any sort of consistency this season. Today they are going to be needed more than ever before. Rowan has gotten red hot at the end of nearly all of the ACC games thus far, but has struggled out of the gate. Martin is coming of of one of the worst shooting nights of his career. These guys need to come alive in this game and that’s going to start with them taking good, clean shots. Forcing 3’s against this Tar Heels team is going to lead to long rebounds and quick transition buckets on the other end, but a hot Rowan or Caleb could change this game.

Leave it all on the floor
One area that you really can’t fault this team is how hard they play. They don’t always make the right decisions on the floor, but they stay in games because of their hustle and want-to. There is no doubt this team wants to win. The problem is that they haven’t quite figured out ‘how.’ Today is no different. They need 100% effort out of every man. They don’t need heroes out there, they need guys willing to grind. Every possession will matter in this game and NC State isn’t deep. They are going to need a possessed type performance on both ends of the floor and with the team sitting at 0-4 in the ACC and taking on their arch-rival who is a heavy favorite, I don’t think the conditions could be better for them to get one.

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wolfpack74
wolfpack74
6 years ago

TravelWolf They are trying, trying my patience.  Abu is the only one that can shoot further than 5 feet await from the basket.  The three bigs are average about 18 points a game, 6 points a piece.  Pitiful for four stars guys and Freeman.

TravelWolf
TravelWolf
6 years ago

I wish someone would looks at the stats for how many baskets we make (and miss) by bigs which are not:
1. dunks
2. put backs (i.e. offensive rebounds)

My guess is that it’s very few per game. We have absolutely no inside game – we didn’t notice this the last 2 years because of our outstanding guard play.

Glad you pointed out that these guys are trying. Few people have pointed that out.

NC State Basketball

OUR TAKE: On NC State’s selfless win over William & Mary

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Another cupcake game, another huge blowout. This NC State team continues to take care of business, finishing off the Tribe 85-64.

The win is great and all, but a notch in the win column over W&M isn’t all that impressive. What is impressive, however, is the way this team is winning. This team can, and has beaten teams in so many different ways. Whatever the game has called for, NC State has had the answer.

Against Dayton, they needed to match their physicality and their experience. They did that, outrebounding a bigger, stronger Dayton team 34-28 and relying on  Jarkel Joiner to keep the team focused and playing at their pace. (Joiner also went for 27 points).

Against Butler they needed to neutralize Manny Bates and expose their lack of depth inside. They did this with Mahorcic and Burns going for a combined 27 points and limiting Bates to just 8 points.

Then last night, against a William and Mary team who was scrappy and active on defense, and throwing double teams at NC State, they had to pass their way into easy buckets. They did this with 18 assists (W&M only had 8). The Pack was led by Terquavion Smith’s 7 assists, while his backcourt mate, Joiner, dished out 6. Even Dusan Mahorcic got in the action with 3.

The point I’m making is that the whole reason I’ve been so bullish on this NC State team from the get-go is that I recognized this versatility. The game of basketball is about matchups. Any small mismatch can put a lot of pressure on an entire team. Look at it like a chain. If one link of the chain is broken, the entire chain is no good. Same goes for basketball, if one defender can’t stay in front of his man, or one big can’t handle the guy he’s guarding, you need help. When a guy rotates over in help side, it creates a series of events that all have to go perfectly if you want to stop your opposition from scoring. The next guy over needs to recognize one of his teammates leaving for help, he then needs to rotate to the guy that was just left, meaning the next guy over has to rotate. All of this rotation is what makes up team defense, and as much as you teach team defense, these 19-year-olds are not going to be able to stay focused enough to consistently make the right read.

That’s why having no mismatches is key. It eliminates a lot of problems you may have on the defensive end. Last year there were mismatches all over the floor. We didnt have a PG who could stop these lighting quick guards from getting to the rim. When they got to the rim, we didn’t have an interior guy who could be relied upon to protect the basket. And then you had an undersized Hellems at the 4, who many teams attacked in the post.

A good coach looks for these mismatches and exploits them.

This team, however, is really hard to get a mismatch again. Joiner can guard any quick PG and he’s big and strong enough to bang with a stronger, thicker PG. Smith is long enough and quick enough to stay in front of most 2 guards. Morsell, NC State’s best overall defender, can guard pretty much anyone at the 3 with his size, strength, and understanding of defensive positioning. At the 4 you have Jack Clark, who has been huge for this team’s defense. He’s 6’8, mobile and athletic, and he’s a pretty gritty kid who doesn’t mind contact in the post. Then you have the bigs. Dusan is a horse. If you need a banger or enforcer, he’s your guy. Then you have Burns, who’s size alone makes him tough to move around. You saw Bates struggle with Burns sheer size. Bates is tall, springy, and long, but he’s got a thin frame. Sure he’s packed on lean muscle, but lean muscle ain’t moving a guy like Burns. The only thing I saw that could really hurt the Pack is super tall 3 who can hang on the perimeter and get shots off over Morsell (Like Grady Dick), or a really athletic, undersized big. I thought KJ Adams would probably cause problems, but he didn’t.  Mahorcic is a lot more nimble than I was expecting, and I’m not as concerned as I was on that front.

Getting back to this game, NC State moved the ball well, ramped up the defense after a slow first 5 minutes, and overwhelmed the Tribe with size and speed.

Here are a few things that really stood out to me…

Casey Morsell is on fire. Morsell went off again for 23 points on 8-12 shooting and 6-9 from 3-point range. He’s not shooting 53% from long range which is absolutely insane seeing as he’s shot 47 3’s (he’s hit 25 of those). In fact, Morsell shot 100 3’s last year and only hit 35 all season long. That’s still 35% which isn’t all that bad, but he’s going to eclipse that number over the next few games, and we’re only just entering ACC play. And this isn’t some random hot streak, in my opinion. Morsell is hitting 3s at home on the road (so far only in the Atlantis Ballroom, which is supposed to be a tough place to shoot). He’s also cleaned up his form. He’s not thinking about it as much,  you can tell. No more hitches at the top like last year. He’s always had good form, but now he’s got confidence and he’s just letting it fly without focusing on mechanics. That’s a sign of a ton of offseason work and a coach that has given you the green light. Morsell knocking down open 3s is huge. Pairing him with 2 guards who defenders need to focus on is going to leave him open. He’s now taking advantage. (Note that Morsell was a 4-star recruit who started day 1 at UVA. He was known for his offense in HS, so him finding his offense isn’t too hard to believe.)

Terquavion Smith is still settling into his new role. Last year Smith and Seabron was all NC State had. He could have a one-track mind on scoring. I don’t think people give enough credit to point guards. When you play basketball, most of the time you have a defined role. Just score. Or just rebound and score. There isn’t that many decisions to make. Open? Shoot. Guarded? Pass. But a PG or someone looking to get his teammates involved has way more going on in their head. Open? Shoot? How open? Could we get a better shot? Is anyone open? Should I slow it down? What’s the situation, pace, who is hot? Do they need me to score?

Bring able to turn that on and off is something only the most elite PGs in the world can do at a high level. Now, Terquavion Smith is being asked to add some of that to his game and as good as he is, it’s a transition. This is the first time in his life he’s not just a scorer. Sure, there were times when double teams came, that he’d dish off for a bucket, but setting guys up and making these split-second decisions every time down the floor is a process. What you’re seeing is Smith getting used to that process. He’s actually putting up great overall numbers. He’s averaging 16.1 points, leading the team with 5 .3 assists per game and grabbing 3 boards per game. He’s hitting 39% of his shots, which is where he was at last season, but he’s only hitting 33% for his 3s, down from 37%, but his assists are up from 2.1 to 5.3. His turnovers are also up from 1.7 last year to 3.1 this year.

So what do you make of this? Well, Smith is going to start hitting more 3s eventually, but his FG% is on par with last year. His assists are way up, and in comparison, Markell Johnson, NC State’s 3rd overall in career assists averaged 5.1 assists per game for his career and 2.45 turnovers per game. If Smith can knock down a few more threes and clean up a few turnovers, then he’ll be an elite scorer who is creating opportunities for his teammates at the pace of some of the best PGs in NC State history.

Greg Gantt finally got some significant run and looked pretty darn good. He got 9 minutes in this one and looks like he’ll really provide some value on the boards. He’s physical has a high motor and reall was active on defense. He’s pretty thick and strong, so he might start eating into Ernest Ross’s minutes here soon. Ross has been given a lot of opportunities, but he hasn’t shown much just yet. Gantt hit a long 2 (initially ruled a 3) but also airballed a floater. I think it will be a few games before we see what Gantt brings to the table offensively, but he’s already proving he can give Keatts some good minutes on defense.

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NC State Basketball

Kevin Keatts Postgame Press Conference After William & Mary Victory: BULLETED

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NC State Men’s Basketball head coach Kevin Keatts met with the media tonight after the Wolfpack’s 85-64 victory over William & Mary 85-64. You can watch it here, or check out a BULLETED breakdown below.

  • We did some really good things.
    • What I’m really proud of is 18 assists on 31 made field goals.
      • Terquavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner are really playing unselfish basketball.
        • When you look at the 2 of those guys, they had 13 assists, and I think this was a career high for Terquavion.
        • He sacrificed a little bit in scoring, but what’s happening in front of us is that we’re starting to see a little bit more of a complete player.
    • Our energy was good once we got going.
    • Our bench was incredible.
      • Some guys came in and did a really good job.
    • It was a good win, and we move on.
  • The way I look at it right now, I’ve got 6 starters.
    • For this game, I wanted to go with DJ Burns over Dusan Mahorcic, and both of those guys are going to end up playing half the game anyway.
    • It’s just a matter of who starts and who I sub first.
    • I’m getting away from all the superstitious stuff.
  • It’s the reality of it [not being in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge]. Someone’s not going to be in it. We’re just not in it, and it didn’t bother me at all.
    • I’m rooting for our conference to do well, and I can’t wait to get out of here and check the scores.
    • I know we started off 2-0.
    • I don’t know who won today, but I will watch some of the games.
    • It’s not about that. When you’re playing against another conference, all your excitement is just for our other teams to do well.
  • [How they would have done if they were in it this year] Well, I will say this…since I’ve been here, we’ve been fortunate enough to be 3-1 in the Challenge, but we won’t know.
    • We’re not in it. I’m rooting for every ACC team in the next 2 or 3 days.
  • We’re doing some good things. Do I think we still have a long way to go in certain areas? Absolutely.
    • It’s early. It’s a little bit early for a conference game, but the reality of it is that we have to play on Friday.
    • We’ve grown in the last 2 or 3 weeks. We’ve gotten better.
    • The Bahamas helped us, playing 3 really good teams back-to-back.
    • I like some of the things we’re doing.
    • We’re going to take the next couple of days to try to get better and get ready for Pitt.
  • He’s [Casey Morsell] been working.
    • I think it’s the 2nd time this year that he’s made 6 three-pointers, and you love to see a kid who puts in the work and works on those shots every day for it to go in.
    • That’s added a really big dimension to our offense.
    • I don’t think he ever thought he was a defensive guy.
      • That’s probably why he’s here.
      • He’s a great kid who works hard. He’s turning into a great 2-way player.
  • I knew I was getting an energy guy [Dusan Mahorcic].
    • He’s all about what NC State’s about. He’s a hard-head guy.
    • He brings it every day. He’s the type of guy you cheer for.
    • He’s going to get on the floor, he’s going to block a shot, and he’s going to jump up and down.
    • He’s tailor-made for what our program’s about.
  • If I were you, I wouldn’t challenge him on that [that Mahorcic describes his game as tough]. I don’t know if you’re ready for that.

Box Score

ACCDN Highlight Reel & Condensed Game

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NC State Basketball

Men’s Basketball: NC State 85 William & Mary 64: ACCDN Highlight Reel & Condensed Game

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The NC State Men’s Basketball team defeated William & Mary 85-64 tonight, improving to 7-1. You can check out the Box Score here. Below is the ACC Digital Network’s Highlight Reel and Condensed Game.

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NC State Basketball

Men’s Basketball: NC State 85 William & Mary 64: BOX SCORE

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NC State improved to 7-1 tonight, defeating William & Mary 85-64. Below is the Box Score.

Casey Morsell continued shredding the net, with a team high 23 points. He shot 8-12 from the field and and absurd 6 of 9 from three.

Terquavion Smith had yet another poor shooting performance (3-11 FG), but finished 2nd on the team with 13 points, and had a team high 7 assists, with only 1 turnover. That ratio is a great improvement for Lil T.

Jack Clark was efficient, scoring 12 points on 5 0f 8 shooting from the field, and 2 of 4 from deep. He also had 6 rebounds and tied for the team high in steals, with 3.

Dusan Mahorcic continued to impress, chipping in 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting, and led the team with 9 boards.

Jarkel Joiner is good at basketball, filling the stat sheet with 11 points (5 of 11 FG), 4 rebounds, 6 assists (3 TO) and 3 steals.

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