NC State looked dominant early, but fell apart at the end of the first half and never recovered. Falling to OK State 74-68. Here are our takeaways.
1. Man to man half-court defense was amazing
Say what you want about this team, but when they want to defend, they can really fluster an opponent. Coming out of the gates, and honestly, for the majority of the first half, NC State was smothering OK State who barely got any open looks from the outside and when they did, were completely challenged. Cam Hayes, Casey Morsell, and Dereon Seabron did an amazing job keeping their men out of the lane. They held OK State to 39% shooting, 25% from 3pt land. Overall, this is a good sign moving forward for this young team. State wins this game handily with Manny Bates on the floor.
2. Keatts stuck with the full-court zone press too long
The full-court press sped up OK State and ended up getting the Pack back in the game, but there were way too many easy buckets and ally oops being scored when the Cowboys were able to break it. Without Bates, Dowuona and Gibson are sitting ducks under the basket if you can’t slow them up. Hindsight is 20/20 but even in the moment there were numerous times that we felt Keatts should have just man pressed to speed up-tempo and relied on his halfcourt defense which had been great for a majority of the game.
Now, to his credit, he probably was trying to figure out ways to play the game without giving the Cowboys a chance to dump it down and score on the blocks (which they were doing pretty easily). But the gamble ended with too many uncontested layups. Not sure the other way wins you the game, but there’s nothing easier in basketball than an uncontested dunk.
3. NC State didn’t get what they needed from Terquavion Smith
As we stated in our preseason previews, Smith is a freshman (a very talented one), so there is going to be ups and downs. This was one of the downs. State needed his scoring ability off the bench, but he just couldn’t connect. This was his first game against a Power 5 opponent and playing against more physical guards, so I guess you should have expected it. However, if this team is going to be a factor, they need Smith to be able to put up at least 8 points or more per game. We felt as if Keatts should have worked to get him more minutes in the second half, but he was off and Keatts opted to go with the guys who had experience.
4. Another year with no point guard
I know they list Cam Hayes as a point guard, I know he’s done a good job at limiting turnovers, and I know he’s just a sophomore, but Keatts needs a playmaker up top. Someone who can probe the defense and find open guys. Hayes just isn’t doing that. He continues to struggle when forced to change direction in traffic, and his body control on the drive just isn’t there. When he’s making plays its mostly off the ball or on kick-outs. Keatts needs to find an answer here. Maybe it’s Seabron at the point, or maybe its Breon Pass getting acclimated to the college game, but either way, they are going to consistently struggle to get clean looks if they don’t have someone who can get into the lane and create.
5. Couldn’t stop the OK State bigs
With Bates out, everyone knew this would be a problem. Actually, Dowuona held his own in the first half, but once the Cowboys figured out that they needed to clear the lane and attack one on one in the post, NC State fell apart. Dowuona needs more time, Gibson is a capable backup, but he’s stuck to the ground and slow to adjust in the post. Ernest Ross shows flashes but he too is just a freshman and isn’t going to stop a veteran big. This is NC State’s weak point and it will be all season. Keatts needs to figure out a way to hide this flaw. The answer is going zone, but Keatts entire system is based on ball pressure and pushing tempo. They’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place here, and it’s certainly going to be the thing that holds this team back from accomplishing what it would have been able to if Bates was on the floor.