— NC State Men’s Bball (@PackMensBball) December 29, 2016
In their final non-conference tune-up, NC State looked like they were rounding into form as they took out a decent Rider team 99-71.
While not much of a matchup on paper, there were certainly takeaway from this game. Let’s examine them.
Dennis Smith Jr. is becoming elite, goes for 19pts and 16 assists
He was billed as a top 10 draft pick, and now he’s playing that way. Smith finished with 19pts and 16 assists and all of it was within the flow of the game. Smith is taking good shots and knocking them down, he using his quickness to get a step on his man and his physicality to put massive amounts of pressure on the defense. He’s to the point where defenses are having to make decisions. Stop him by helping (opening up other guys) or allow him a good look (which now he is knocking down). Smith is turning into a true force and just in time for ACC play. Oh wait…and we forgot to mention…this happened.
Abu goes beast-mode, finishes with 12 and 12
Ok, now we’re talking. We’ve been waiting for Abu to unleash and he’s starting to do just that. Ever since Yurtseven returned we have have seen a different Abu. With Yurt at the high post, Abu is reaping the benefits of one on ones on the block. He’s playing with more physicality, rebounding with more passion and starting to punish anyone who dares jump with him at the rim. This is the Abu that tested the NBA waters and the one NC State will need if they are going to be contenders this year. Abu finished with 12 points and 12 boards, but they were nearly all loud and memorable. Good news for State heading into the ACC season where they will need a physical athlete like Abu.
Unselfish play fueling the Wolfpack surge. The two stats you should be paying attention to:
There are two stats we think really are positives for NC State. The first is their assist number. 26 of their 40 buckets came via the assist. That is 65%. That is a very, very good number. Around 50% should be a number you’d be pleased with, but 65%? That means you’re clicking on all cylinders. Of course 16 of those 26 came from Dennis Smith Jr, but if the Pack wants to be a real force, then they’ll need big assist number from Smith night in and night out.
The other numbers to look at are the shot attempts. Abu had 8, Rowan had 9, Yurt had 11, Henderson and Dorn both had 10, and Smith shot it 15 times. Now that is how you spread the shots around, and when you spread shots around like that it means you’re team is playing together selflessly. This fact that this team is playing so well should make you happy, but what should really have you excited is how they are playing together.
“There’s really no one that’s selfish on this team. The guys are really interested in finding the open guy and passing the ball.” – MG pic.twitter.com/GyyCf3kWev
— NC State Men’s Bball (@PackMensBball) December 29, 2016
Thoughts on NC State’s 83-87 Loss to Syracuse
NC State’s (16-10/8-7) 83-87 loss to Syracuse this evening might have been the nail-in-the-coffin when it comes to the Wolfpack’s NCAA Tournament aspirations. They were barely on the bubble as it was, but this game and the next two games against Boston College and Florida State were “must wins.” On top of that, the Wolfpack probably needed to beat Pitt in the regular season finale, and beat either Duke or UNC.
With this loss, NC State will need a miracle. They will need to win the rest of their regular season games, which concludes with 3 consecutive Quad 1 games.
In regards to this evenings game, it’s hard to beat a team when you allow them to shoot 61.3% in the first half, and allow a guy who averages 11.3 points per game (Chris Bell) to sink 8 of 9 three’s at the halfway mark. Sure, you could make the excuse that they were just hitting everything they threw up, but the defense was lackluster, and they failed to adjust to a player with a hot hand.
What I’m about to say isn’t meant to describe a moral victory for NC State. With that being said, this team didn’t give up, and clawed back from a 15-point halftime deficit (16-point at one point in the 2nd half), to take a 1-point lead with 3:15 left in the game. That was the first time the Wolfpack had led since it was 2-0.
Senior DJ Horne was sensational once again, scoring 25+ points for the 5th straight game, matching what Cat Barber did back in 2015-16. Horne finished with 32 points, hitting 11 of his 20 field goal attempts, and an insane 6 of 8 from three.
Could you argue that Horne was fouled on the last play? I guess, but I wouldn’t have called it.
Three other Wolfpack players scored in double figures: Ben Middlebrooks (12), DJ Burns (12) and Jayden Taylor (10). Honestly, they all shot well. Middlebrooks had a double-double, with 10 rebounds.
Mohamed Diarra was solid with 7 points (3-6) and 8 boards.
Syracuse came back to reality in the second half, and ended up shooting 51% from the field, but the Wolfpack shot 47%. Both teams shot well. In fact, NC State actually scored more points off of turnovers, had more second chance points and had more free throws.
You simply can’t put yourself in a position to dig yourself out of a 16-point deficit. You can’t allow a guy to make 8 of 9 three’s in the opening half, with 6 of them being practically uncontested.
The Wolfpack have lost 3 of the last 4, and all 3 losses have been by 4 points or less. I wouldn’t say the Pack lost any of those three games due to a lack of effort. Rather, I would say it was primarily due to inconsistency, a lack of discipline and poor decisions in timely moments (Jayden Taylor’s TO with 1:13 left with the game tied).
With Wake Forest beating Pitt tonight, a Wolfpack win would have put them in 4th place in the ACC.
A big missed opportunity for the Pack this evening.
NC State 83 Syracuse 87: BOX SCORE
DJ Horne is Looking to Continue His Streak of 20+ Points or More
NC State is trying to stop a 6-game losing streak to Syracuse tonight, but Senior Wolfpack Guard DJ Horne is trying to continue a streak.
Currently, Horne has scored 20+ points in 5 straight games, which is tied with what Terquavion Smith did last year. If Horne scores 20+ points tonight, his 6-game streak will be the longest since 2015-16, when Cat Barber strung together 7 straight games of 20+ points.
Horne also has scored 25+ points in 4 straight games. If he does so again tonight, he will be the first player to do so since Barber did so in 2015-16, when he scored 25+ in 5-straight games.
What Horne has done in his coming home campaign has been nothing short of remarkable. He is shooting 43.4% from three, which ranks 2nd in the ACC. In his last 18 games, Horne is shooting 46.6% from deep. In ACC play, Horne is averaging 19.3 points per game, which ranks 2nd in the conference.
Here’s what Horne’s numbers look like over his 5-game streak of 20+ points: 26.6 points/51.8 FG%/48.8 3PT%.
NC State is Looking to Snap a 6-Game Losing Streak to Syracuse
NC State might be a 5.5-point favorite this evening agains Syracuse, but beating the Orange hasn’t been easy for the Wolfpack over the past couple of years. Syracuse has defeated NC State in 6 consecutive games.
The 6-game losing streak is the Wolfpack’s longest current losing streak. The Pack are in familiar territory, after snapping a 6-game losing streak to Clemson their last time out.
Kevin Keatts started off his tenure in Raleigh by beating the Orange in 3 consecutive games, but has lost the last 6 obviously.
The last time NC State defeated Syracuse was on February 11th, 2020, winning 79-74 on the road. The last time the Wolfpack beat Syracuse at home was the year before, winning decisively 73-58 in PNC Arena on February 13th, 2019.
In three of the losses, the Wolfpack was upset.