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How Defense Ruined Wolfpack’s Big Night in Loss to Syracuse

NC State Basketball

How Defense Ruined Wolfpack’s Big Night in Loss to Syracuse

NC State played what was probably their most impressive game offensively, but it wasn’t enough as Syracuse exposed the Wolfpack’s weakness on defense in their 100-93 OT win.

Dennis Smith logged his second career triple-double (13pts, 15 assists, and 10 rebounds), Mav Rowan scored a career-high 31 on 8 three pointers, Henderson added 16, Abu pitched in a very loud 19 and Yurtseven even dropped 10. So how in the world, with those stats did NC State lose this game.

Well, you guess it. Defense. John Gillon, who averages 9ppg, decided to drop 43 on NC State. Let’s clear two things up. Maybe ‘decide’ is the wrong word. NC State, specifically Dennis Smith, let him drop 43, and while the defense was extremely poor, we shouldn’t take away from the fact that Gillon put on an amazing performance (9-10 from 3pt range and 14-14 from the FT line.)

No communication on switches…Who takes the blame, Smith Jr. or Gottfried?
Not sure who gets the blame here. At a high level, it should be Gottfried because he should have a gameplan and have his guys stick with it until he changes it. There is too much inconsistency on ball screens. Sometimes they switch and sometimes Dennis Smith goes over top and most of the time he goes underneath.

You could argue that they have matchups that they are willing to switch and ones they are not, but that can’t be the case because often they allowed a switch on a big, putting Abu on Gillom and Smith on their big. No coach in their right mind would gameplan a switch like that. So that makes it very probable that Dennis Smith is calling for switch when he feels like it, and then staying with his man when he feels like it.

Who is allowing this? Gottfried? You are 2/3 of the way through the season and your team has shown a very apparent lack of communication and lack of ability to adjust by themselves on defense. So it’s one of two things. It’s either Gottfried giving them the green light to call switches when they want and this is causing confusion and disruption defensively, leading to wide open men and complete collapse of the defense. Or, the only other thing it could be,  is that Gottfried is giving them a game plan (for instance. Never switch, bigs need to hedge, defender needs to recover) and Dennis Smith Jr is simply not following it.

So to be clear. This problem here is either on Gottfried or Smith Jr depending on what the established gameplan was, but Gottfried gets the most blame because if Smith Jr is going against his game plan defensively then he’s allowing it by keeping him on the floor. Tonight proves that everything Smith adds to this team offensively is pretty much made up for by his lack of defense. This is a major, major flaw in the NC State defense.

Over or under the ball screen? Smith choosing under way too often.
If you were not aware, going under the ball screen is for two situations. 1) You’re lazy on defense or 2) You are guarding a guy who is not a threat from 3pt range and you want him taking 3s. That’s it.

So when John Gillom is dripping wet from 3pt range and is single-handedly killing your team, you have to ask why you would ever go underneath a ball screen on him. The only excuse is laziness or being tired. And if it’s that Dennis Smith Jr is too tired to defend someone, then he should simply not be on the court. That is on Gottfried. If Smith is taking breaks on defense then that is a problem, and Gottfried needs to get him some more breathers because it’s already proven that no matter how good you are offensively, when NC State plays no defense, they lose.

The point is, even Syracuse’s Andrew White couldn’t believe how bad the Wolfpack’s defense was.

“The hedge was kind of soft and his man (Smith) was going under the screen. So you know, in the ACC that’s easy pickings. he took advantage of that. But I was surprised to watch them keep going under his screens, especially after he’s hitting 3 after 3.”

If Mark Gottfried does not get more strict with his team’s defense and his team fails to hold focus and communication on the defensive end then this season is done, over, and probably the biggest waste of talent NC State fans have ever seen.
Too many blow-bys but Helpside is either too much, or not at all
During NC State’s run, they were helping and recovering. They were getting shot clock violations and making it tough to find good shots. But why did that only last for a few minutes?

For one, why is NC State guards getting beat so easily off the bounce? Well, rewatch the tape and see how often they are chest to chest, pressed up on someone way beyond the 3pt arch. What is the point? If a team is going to beat you by shooting deep threes over an outstretched arm, then fine. Lose that way. But not many teams are going to be able to consistently knock down those shots. That is how Virginia is so successful. When you get within the 3pt arch, you get physical man to man, chest to chest defense. When you are at the 3pt line you are within arms length, and beyond that you are 4 feet off the guy. How hard is this to understand. NC State chooses to exert their defensive effort on the ball, 40 ft away from the basket.

When there is a blow-by, especially a baseline blow-by, there almost never is a big ready to drop down and beat the man to the block and stop his drive. They are nearly always late. Why? How? Are bigs not taught to see man and ball at all times. Isn’t that literally the first thing every coach teaches his players? This is one reason the bigs pick up so many fouls. They are never beating the ball to a spot in help. They are late, still moving and easy targets for fouls.

At this point, we literally have no clue why these things are still problems 3/4 of the way through the season. Why is a high-level ACC basketball team having so much trouble with simple foundations of team defense?

We just posed a bunch of questions on here. You have the believe that these are things that Gottfried is preaching to his kids. Right? So if that’s the case, then why isn’t it happening. Why are these problems still so obvious and so glaring?

That is probably the million dollar question whose answer is the key to NC State reaching their potential. is an independently run content site that exclusively covers NC State basketball and football. Started in late 2007 by two former students with the goal of integrating the latest in web content delivery into a Wolfpack sports site, free of charge to the user.



  1. wolfpack74

    February 2, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    How do you think we got Smith or Yurtseven to come to State. He promised them all the playing time regardless of execution. So sit back and hope all the others don’t transfer when Smith and Yurtseven leave this season. The same $hit happened when Hickson came to State. It ruined the entire flow of the team. Same thing with Smith, he just wants to play offense. He’s ready for the NBA.

  2. Wolfer96

    February 2, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    1st ACC game Gott should’ve sent a message to the refs. When they started whistling little touch fouls, Gott should have kept those guys in the game and let them foul out. Then send the next guy in and have him play physical until he fouls out. Force the refs to adjust or end the game early. The Pack could play more physical the rest of the season.

  3. Tarhater

    February 2, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    Coach Gott let 3 elephants sneak up on him this season; 1) BJ Anya secretly gained 50 lbs rendering him essentially useless. Obviously no one thought of having him weigh in 2) The Rescue squad announced their arrival 6 months too soon. Play a few games fellows before claiming greatness and 3) freshman point guards never ever really work out. Go luck DS, jr 8 games left and counting.

  4. Wolfer96

    February 2, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    Effective leadership is getting guys to perform at a high level all the time or most of the time. If the guys aren’t consistently executing, playing like they should, or playing hard then it’s failed leadership. It’s more than just preaching defense. You have to practice it the right way, you have to break it down to the angles, feet, shoulders, etc.

    • Wolfer96

      February 2, 2017 at 7:44 pm

      You have to be willing to sit guys when necessary. Not at the half way mark in the season but from game 1 when you see the bad habits forming. I saw Dorn from game 1 losing his man time and time again, taking it to the hoop against 3 defenders. Gott should have nipped that in the bud immediately but he let it continue. Now Dorn is doing the same against better competition and it’s failing bad.

  5. yakima2k

    February 2, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    It’s apparent that Gottfried has either not properly coached or is not properly motivating this team to play defense. An opponent coming into our building and shooting well is not an anomaly – it happens even with terrible non-conference teams. The volume of points this team is giving up night in and night out is squarely on Coach’s shoulders.

  6. BALLERMAN4452

    February 2, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    Totally agree with the point on going over the screen and not under it. Should have been addressed when the guy hit 2 of 3 threes in a row. Credit due where it’s due, but good lord besides that last three (the fade away on the baseline with one second left), most of his shots were WIDE OPEN. We let a guy who scored 4.5 pts on the road score 43 on us. Absolutely unacceptable

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