The final score of 78-56 doesn’t paint a clear picture of this Wolfpack victory.
This wasn’t some 22 point thumping. This was a ‘grind it out’, ‘get it done’ type of victory for NC State. This was the first time we got to see a little struggle. It was the first time players had to step up and hit run-stopping shots. It was the first time some of NC State’s weaknesses were exposed.
At the end of the day, this game taught us a little more about who this team is and what they need to do going forward. We’ll break it down in ‘Our Take.’
Slower and sloppier for the Wolfpack
There were a lot of good things to focus on from this game, but I think the big takeaway from this game was that we got to see, for the first time, this Wolfpack team slowed down.
Charleston Southern did a good job of dictating the pace. They didn’t allow NC State to speed them up too much with defensive pressure, and they were very good about beating their man back down the floor.
This was a lot different from what we saw in the exhibition and the season opener. NC State was forced to defend for longer periods and had to find open shots within their offensive sets.
What we learned was that defensively, NC State needs to do a better job of closing out under control. There were a lot of times that guys were just flying around, biting on every pump fake and forcing the defense to help and recover. While the effort was good and guys did recover most of the time, it did put a lot of pressure on the defense and had CSU been a better scoring team, they would have taken advantage. This also forced NC State to exert more energy per possession than needed. This will be important when State faces some of the better shooting teams in the ACC.
Al Freeman and Sam Hunt are vital to this offense
When NC State is firing on all cylinders and they are able to play in transition, Markell Johnson and Lavar Batts Jr will have huge games. However, when teams are able to slow down NC State and make them run their offense, all of the sudden the burden falls on Al Freeman and Sam Hunt.
You saw it last night, teams are going to pack the lane and dare NC State to shoot it. Luckily, Freeman and Hunt hit enough last night to keep the Buccaneers at bay. Freeman finished with another game-high 18 pts on 6-18 shooting (3-5 from 3pt range) and Hunt pitched in with 11 points on 3-8 shooting (all 3s).
This is also why getting Braxton Beverly eligible would be huge. It would give Keatts the ability to really tailor his lineup to the opponent’s style of play. You could go with your athletes (Johnson, Batts and Freeman) or your shooters (Beverly, Hunt and Freeman).
Whatever the case may be, a lot of NC State’s success this season will be tied to how well they shoot it from outside.
A struggle in the paint and on the boards
The game started off with Charleston Southern missing three shots, grabbing 3 offensive boards and getting a put-back before NC State ever touched the basketball. This was a little foreshadowing of what ended up happening for NC State against CSU.
I think this ends up being a real area of concern for NC State. They are rolling out 6’8 Lennard Freeman (8 rebounds), who’s a proven rebounder at the ACC level and 7 foot Omer Yurtseven (4 rebounds in limited minutes) who nearly opted to head to the NBA after last season. They also were forced to use 6’7 sophomore Darius Hicks (3 rebounds in limited minutes) some last night due to Yurtseven’s foul trouble. Meanwhile, Charleston Southern went with 6’6 Travis McConico (6 rebounds), 6’8 Javis Howard (5 rebounds), and 6’6 Ty Jones (4 rebounds).
The reason we bring this up is to show that NC State had the size advantage, but ended up being outrebounded 37-34. Check out these other ugly stats:
What we see here is that Charleston Southern dominated NC State in the paint with a 6’8 guy and a few 6’6 guys. The other problem that we didn’t mention was that the Buccaneers guards combined for 14 rebounds while NC State’s only had 7.
If NC State is going to go small, then their guards are going to have to do a much better job on the boards. I know they want to leak out and get the break started, but there’s no point if your team isn’t able to secure the rebound.
This is an area where we believe NC State was just out hustled last night. Charleston Southern had no business winning the battle in the paint, yet they did. Maybe, however, it’s because Yurtseven was in foul trouble and they were forced to play small. Either way, this can’t happen against this weak of a frontcourt.
Obviously, Keatts is still messing around with lineups and trying to find combinations that work well together, but either the guards are going to need to pick up the rebounding slack, or State will have to go bigger (which will slow them down).
** Keep in mind that this team is missing Abu, who should be their best frontcourt scorer and second best rebounder.
Turning them over like we’ve never seen, but can they convert?
This is certainly a new era for NC State basketball. Over the past two games, NC State has turned their opponents over a total of 45 times. Last night they got 24 and finished with 26 points off turnovers.
That’s a good number, but look at it half by half. NC State had forced 14 TOs at the break, and then 10 in the second half. That’s pretty consitent, but they were able to convert to the tune of 18pts in the first half while only scoring 8 in the second off those turnovers.
On the opposite side, NC State took better care of the ball in the first half, only turning it over 6 times and not allowing a single point off of those turnovers. The second half wasn’t much different in terms of total TOs (NC State had 9), but Charleston Southern converted those at a crazy rate, turning those 9 into 17 points.
You can credit Charleston Southern for having a good gameplan and slowing down the Wolfpack, but if Charleston Southern is dictating pace of play, what is Virginia (or any other team in the ACC) going to be like? But hey, this is only game 2 and as Keatts has continously preached, it’s going to take time.
NC State has 2 more games to iron things out before they take on #3 Arizona, so hopefully the lerning curve is fast.