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‘Our Take’: On NC State’s ‘grind it out’ win over Charleston Southern

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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.

The other unnerving number was the transition buckets. NC State actually LOST the fast break battle 11-9. Not great for a team that prides itself on it’s run and gun style of play.

 

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.

NC State Basketball

Jersey Numbers for 2024-25 NC State Men’s Basketball Team Revealed

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The NC State Men’s Basketball team revealed the Jersey Numbers for their 2024-25 team yesterday.

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Numbers that are Staying the Same

Michael O’Connell – #12

Ben Middlebrooks – #34

Dennis Parker Jr. – #11

KJ Keatts – #13

Jordan Snell – #22

Numbers that have Changed

Jayden Taylor – #1 –> #8

Breon Pass – #10 –> #4

Numbers of New Players

Mike James – #0 (He wore #0 at Louisville last year)

Brandon Huntley-Hatfield – #1 (He wore #5 at Louisville last year)

Paul McNeil – #2 (He wore #2 in High School last year)

Dontrez Styles – #3 (He wore #0 at Georgetown last year)

Trey Parker – #5 (He wore #5 in High School last year)

Marcus Hill – #10 (He wore #0 at Bowling Green last year)

We don’t know what number Ismael Diouf will be wearing at NC State next year yet. 

 

 

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Kareem Richardson Promoted To Associate Head Coach at NC State

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RALEIGH, N.C. – NC State men’s basketball head coach Kevin Keatts announced Wednesday that assistant coach Kareem Richardson has been promoted to associate head coach effective immediately.

“I’m proud to promote Kareem to associate head coach,” Keatts said. “He is a valuable member of my staff and has really enhanced NC State both in his relationship with our players and staff, but also his ability to teach, scout and game plan. He is a well-rounded coach that has an impact on every facet of our program, and I feel fortunate to have him as part of my staff.”

The upcoming 2024-25 season will be Richardson’s third at NC State. The Pack has earned bids to the NCAA Tournament in both seasons Richardson has been on staff, including last season when NC State won the ACC Championship and advanced to the Final Four.

NC State has had three different guards (DJ Horne, Jarkel Joiner and Terquavion Smith) earn All-ACC honors under Richardson’s tutelage.

Richardson was previously head coach at UMKC for 2013-19 and has been an assistant coach at power conference programs such as Louisville, Xavier and Clemson in his 25-year coaching career.

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WATCH: Getting to Know NC State’s Dontrez Styles

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NC State Men’s Basketball is releasing videos helping fans get to know the new players on the 2024-25 roster.

Below is the video of Georgetown Transfer Forward Dontrez Styles (6’6″/212), with a transcript underneath.

I’m Dontrez Styles, a transfer from Georgetown University. I knew where I wanted to be. At the end of the day, I knew I wanted to come back home and play for a guy like Keatts. That was the main thing for me.

Being back home is amazing. My family can see me play every game now. An hour from Kinston, North Carolina. It’s a small city. I love it. Just growing there. A lot of great guys. A lot of great basketball players. My family is there. It’s my life.

I grew up in the Brandon Ingram era, so I went to every Kinston High School game. Just seeing him play motivated me to get in the gym and keep working. The grind has paid off.

It’s crazy. I would have never imagined this happening. It’s very rare for someone to go to North Carolina and NC State. Me being one of the first guys to do that, I believe it’s different, but I’m enjoying it so far. I can’t wait to get started.

Coach (Levi) Watkins recruited me when he was at Ole Miss. He’s been with me since my Sophomore year, I believe. Just having that relationship with them makes it easier every day.

Just being back, it’s going to be very fun, especially now. The hype is crazy. I can’t wait to be back home and get started, and hopefully win that National Championship.

_______

Styles was the 2nd leading scorer for Georgetown this past season, averaging 12.8 points per game, while grabbing 5.8 boards. He shot 36.8% from three.

Originally, Sytles was a consensus 4-Star prospect in UNC’s 2021 recruiting class. 247Sports ranked him as the #62 overall player nationally, and the #2 player in the state of North Carolina, playing for Kinston High School.

After two seasons with the Tar Heels, Styles entered the Portal, and took an Official Visit to NC State and Georgetown, and ultimately chose the Hoyas.

Styles will be spending his final year of eligibility with NC State.

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WATCH: Getting to Know NC State’s Mike James

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NC State Men’s Basketball is releasing videos helping fans get to know the new players on the 2024-25 roster.

Below is the video of Louisville Transfer Guard Mike James (6’5″/200), with a transcript underneath.

I last played at the University of Louisville. I spent three years there. Played two. Redshirted my first year because of injury. I enjoyed my time there, but all good things got to come to an end, and I’m here at North Carolina State. 

Entering the Portal is just like going through High School recruitment again. You’re getting your phone blown up every other hour, every single day. You’ve got to get on long phone calls. You’re kind of going through the process again, but this time, you kind of know what you want. You’ve been through College Basketball, so you know what questions to ask, what to expect, and you kind of just get straight to the point. I feel like the process was similar, but different this time. It went a lot quicker, and I knew exactly what I wanted. I want to win at the end of the day. Playing time is earned, and all that stuff. You’ve got to come in here and take care of that. 

Winning is very important, and I haven’t done that so far, but that’s the one thing I want to change about my college career. Seeing y’all go on that run was really appealing to me. 

I like to get to the basket. Draw fouls. Finish at the rim. Knock down shots on the perimeter. Defend 1-4 positions on the other end. 

I want to come in and win. I want to be a leader for our team. I’m an older guy now, so I want to be a leader. I want to come in and win another ACC Championship, and make another NCAA Tournament run. 

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This past year, James averaged 12.6 points per game (3rd on the team) and 5 rebounds. He’s extremely physical and aggressive, taking 47% of his field goal attempts at the rim (making 46%). As a result, he draws a lot of fouls, ranking 10th in the ACC in Fouls Drawn, and 4th in Free Throw Rate. James made opponents pay this year when they put him on the line, making 81.8% from the charity stripe, which ranked 15th in the ACC.

James shot the ball better as a Redshirt Freshman, than he did this past season. His Effective Field Goal Percentage in 2022-23 was 55.8%, which ranked 19th in the ACC, and his True Shooting Percentage of 59.6% ranked 14th.

News broke about James entering the Transfer Portal back on March 25th, and NC State was quick to reach out. Kevin Keatts and his staff recruited the former 4-star prospect out of high school heavily, but he ultimately chose the Cardinals.

After redshirting his first year in Louisville due to torn achilles, James has been a starter for the Cardinals the past two years.

He does have the ability to knock down a three, making 34.8% for his career.

James has 2 years of eligibility remaining.

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