NC State played 60 minutes of basketball on Wednesday night, eventually outlasting the Cornhuskers 104-100 in a 4OT thriller. Here is our take on the hard-fought win…
- Dereon Seabron, our savior
What a performance for the 6’7 sophomore guard. Just when you think you’ve seen is all from this kid, he comes out and puts up a 39 point, 18 rebound showing. Without Seabron, this game isn’t close. He was 11-22 from the field and 17-20 from the line. And the crazy thing is that they knew what he was going to do. Seabron didn’t hit a single outside shot in this game. Nebraska sat back and dared him to shoot, but he kept on pressing the issue, driving to the hoop, attacking the rim, and finishing with either hand.
You really can’t say enough about how much improvement this kid has shown in just 2 seasons. When he committed, we made a bold prediction that his ceiling was becoming Julius Hodge 2.0, and it’s looking like he’s already approaching that level. He’s knocking down FTs at a 76% clip, so his shot is coming along. If he can start knocking down open jumpers then he becomes an All-ACC level talent and a sure-fire pro prospect. NC State needed all 39 points from him in this one and they’ll be relying on him heavily going forward.
- Dowuona showing consistent improvement
Game by game, Dowuona is slowly becoming a force in the middle for NC State. 3 games ago he opened eyes with 7 rebounds. Then 2 games ago he went for 10 points on 5 of 5 shooting and tallied 6 blocks. Then last night he put up 7 boards and 8 blocks. As you can see, he’s starting to fill out the stat sheet, and that’s on top of all of the shots he’s altering and not getting stats for. Nebraska’s big man, Walker, is no slouch, and although he had 12 points in almost 50 minutes of play, he wasn’t really a big factor in their offense. Mostly that was because Dowuona was manning the middle and forcing him to pass out. If the sophomore big can keep this up, NC State may be able to compete against teams with quality bigs, and that was thought to be impossible when Bates went down in game 1.
- What’s going on with Thomas Allen?
Allen was suspended in game 1 for playing in an unsanctioned summer league game, he then was held out of game 2, but played 22 minutes against both Central Connecticut and Texas Southern, which sandwiched a game where he played just 12 minutes vs OK State. In this one, he was noticeably absent for the entire game until the 3rd OT when Hellems fouled out. What gives?
Well, Keatts said in the post-game that he is dealing with some foot issues, but do we really buy that? Or is he falling out of favor with the coaching staff? Who knows, but with Breon Pass struggling as the backup PG, and Cam Hayes not meeting expectations as a PG, Allen should be playing a bigger role on this team. In his 8 minutes last night, he finished with 5 points and 3 rebounds on 1 of 1 shooting. It’s obvious that Pass and Smith (both freshmen) need some time to get acclimated to college basketball, and as they do, this team should be relying a little more on Allen who could potentially be one of their better perimeter scorers if he’s locked in.
I will say that he looked a little apathetic when coming in after sitting almost the whole game, so I’m guessing we don’t have the whole story here. However, he’s a senior and Keatts needs some veterans if he’s going to win games in the ACC. We hope to see more of Allen going forward.
- The press is biting the Pack
We all know that Keatts loves to press, it’s in the DNA of his entire approach, but man does it come back to bite this team from time to time. Too many times, if a team breaks the press, they are getting easy buckets on the other end and putting Dowuona in a bad position of having to defend a 2 on 1 break. Then with NC State up 1 and 4 seconds on the clock, Keatts decided to press up. Terquavion Smith was forced to switch on a screen, putting him in a bad position to stop a streaking McGowan, who he ended up fouling. This could have and should have cost NC State the game. But why?
Why not pick up 3 quarter court, allow a full-court heave, or give you guys a chance to stay in front of guards who no doubt are going to be coming down the court full speed? This was obvious and we were criticizing the decision when State came out of the timeout and set up. Of course, it ended up biting them, and they almost lost the game.
Keatts had some blunders in this one, but the overuse of the press is something that has been happening all season and something he remains committed to no matter the situation. We don’t criticize Keatts much, but we will do just that on this call. Know your personal and be able to adjust. It worked out in this one, but hopefully it’s a learning experience for this staff going forward.
- The Jericole Hellems roller coaster ride continues
Hellems finished with 15 points, 7 boards and, 4 assists. With that stat line, you’d think he had a great game. However, if you watched, this is a guy who is still struggling in a big way. He was 5-17 from the floor (29%) and 2-8 from 3pt range (25%). This is the guy who was supposed to be the team’s leader and the guy we could count on to pace the Pack in scoring. So far, he’s been extremely inconsistent. He’s had some great games and then some games where he just looks completely void of confidence offensively. We think he’ll eventually find his footing, but man, this team can’t afford Hellems to shoot sub 40% from the floor.
- Cam Hayes continues to look unsure of his role
State needs Hayes to be the court leader, their PG, and one of their consistent scorers. So far he’s struggled to be any of those things. He did have 13 points and 4 rebounds but also didn’t have a single assist. He was 5-13 from the field and 0-5 from 3pt range. He’s just a sophomore, but he’s way too talented to be struggling like he is. He’s averaging just 2.4 assist per game, which as your lead guard, isn’t going to cut it. If he was hitting his shots from outside it would be easy to dismiss some of these shortcomings and accept him for what he is, but he’s only shooting 19% from out there this season.
Hayes has the talent to be a factor for this team, but at this point, it seems like he’s simply out of position to take advantage of his skill set. He was recruited as a PG and he’s playing PG for this team, but to call a spade, a spade, he’s not a PG. He’s a shooting guard.
He’s been trying to drive and play through contact, but you can tell he’s just not comfortable doing that. He gets tunnel vision on the drives, draws defenders, and then tosses up a short runner or jumper over multiple defenders. His body control going to the hoop has always been an issue, as he plays way too straight up for a PG. The dribble is too high, the posture is too high, and it’s keeping him from being able to get inside, absorb contact, and then assess the situation (shoot or dish). I’m not sure what the answer is here. Keatts doesn’t have a true PG he can count on, and Cam, I guess, is the best option. However, moving Seabron to the 1 and Cam to the 2 with Morsell at the 3, may end up being the best option for this ball club as ACC play begins.
- Effort and fight were there all night long
For all the flack people give Keatts, and for all the criticism we put on this team at times, there is no doubt that Keatts’ guys show up to play and fight all game long. This is an area where you have to give the head coach credit. Getting 19-year-olds to put it all on the line, night in and night out isn’t easy, but Keatts has done it throughout his time at NC State. This is one reason we’re bullish on Keatts’ future. We believe he’ll eventually adjust his style of play to fit this level of basketball, and when he does, it will couple with the grit and effort his teams are known for. This is when NC State will be able to finally get over the hump. These guys are conditioned and it shows. They played 60 minutes of basketball last night, most of which was played by just 6 or 7 guys, and there wasn’t a time during the game where I thought they were taking breaks. Credit Keatts on this.
- Hey, they’re 6-1 heading into their first ACC Matchup
Bates or no Bates, no one would have been mad at this team being 6-1, 7 games into the season. The Colgate win was a good win. The OK State loss likely won’t hurt them too bad, and the Nebraska win will hold up alright. Now onto the meat of the schedule. Over the next 3 games, State will have 2 tough tests. One vs. Louisville on Saturday in the ACC opener. State will likely be picked to win this one, but it’s not going to be easy. The Cardinals recently took #22 Michigan State to the wire before losing. Then they have a cupcake, but then it’s off to play #2 Purdue, who is a potential Final 4 team. We’ll learn a lot over the next week, but if State can come out of this stretch 2-1, then they’ll be set up to make some waves as ACC play really kicks in.