Sunday afternoon, State played their first game ever as a #1 Seed. After a slow start, they were off and running to a 79-58 win against NC A&T. Above are highlights from the game, below our takes.
Don’t Worry about the Slow Start
Twitter was in a mini panic after the first quarter.
Two weeks between games, especially with the importance of the NCAAT, is brutal. State has literally been sitting in their hotel playing card games, while attempting to get practices in to stay game-ready.
“Well NC A&T was in the same boat, so what’s up?”
NC A&T’s game is built 100% around their defense. If you watch those first 12 or so minutes, they were playing the best they’ve ever played. Sliding to support, being overly aggressive in the paint, the bounce in their step was incredible. This was a team who’s opponent’s high for the season was 66 (State hit that mark with basically a quarter to go).
Would argue, that the “easiest” thing to get up to speed is your defensive, especially if that’s your strong suit. Doesn’t hurt, when your offense is hitting at a 63% pace for much of the first half. As the game went on and State settled down, they were able to wear out NC A&T while providing their own defensive pressure (NC A&T returned to Earth, shooting about 25% in the second half).
From here on out, State will play better competition, but I’ll bet that ten-minute span of perfect NC A&T play will be a good barometer. State weathered the storm and still lead at the half.
One of the key components to long-term success, is making sure everyone gets reps. Boy did they ever. Cunane and Brown-Turner played roughly a half of basketball (24 minutes a piece). Even Perez saw the bench for a full quarter. To be able to get 13 minutes out of Hobby, 14 out of Bryant and just about everyone else for at least four, is HUGE.
Now we have to mention Kayla Jones. Her 12 minutes were not on time restrictions, but injury. With our Doctorates from Couch University, it looked like a sprain and nothing serious (at least that’s what we’re praying for). She’ll get an MRI today for further analysis.
With that, Boyd showed why she’s Sixth Player of the Year. Jones goes down and Boyd went off for 18 points, 5 rebounds and a pair of steals. This will sound harsh, but if a player from the starting five had to miss time, Jones might be the person. Luckily, your best player outside those five, slides into the rotation perfectly.
A side note on the bench players. While yes, Boyd went off, the bench shot 55% from the floor and 7-8 from the FT line. Regardless who was on the floor in the second half, State’s lead never dipped and they remained solid in all aspects of their game.
Moving On to Second Round
On Tuesday, State will play AAC Champion, South Florida. Which, if you want to talk about showing a little rust/nerves, the Bulls did in their opening game against Washington State. We’ll preview that matchup in-depth later, but South Florida will give up a big run or two to the Pack.
If you’re Wes Moore, you aren’t necessarily happy with the start. Can only blame rust on this game, so a much strong start will be needed next game. But this team, since the UNC loss, isn’t about winning big. They’re just about winning.
Close games, blowouts, the same calmness is felt and seen through it all. If we can go 8 deep heading into future rounds, we’ll be in a great position to win.
State faces #8 seed South Florida, Tuesday at 3pm on ESPN2.