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OUR TAKE: On NC State’s heartbreaking OT loss to #1 Purdue

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Ok. Work with me here. First, I want you to think back to yesterday’s game. Next, I’m going to need you to grab a pillow. Now place it over your face and scream as loudly as you can for as long as you can.

Ok. Now you’re ready to read this.

NC State lost in the most NC State way possible. They led for 39 of the first 40 minutes, at one point by 13 points, only to allow #1 Purdue to come back in the end, force OT, and win. It’s depressing. It’s exhausting. But at the same time, it’s almost unbelievable that NC State was actually in the position to win this game.

 

NC State overcame the odds in a way nobody thought possible

NC State was so overmatched in this game it wasn’t funny. Look at the stats coming in. Everything pointed to a blowout. Look at the Vegas line. No one thought NC State could handle this Purdue team who was chomping at the bit to come out with a win after being shocked by Rutgers just days earlier. I’m not gonna bullsh*t you, I am an eternal optimist and even I wasn’t really seeing a way to keep this one close.

Purdue has the best frontcourt in the country. Edey is one of the most skilled 7 footers in the college game. Williams is a surefire pro, with triple-double potential every night. They have great shooters (42% from 3 coming in). They have an elite guard in Jaden Ivey. They have depth. They have a great coach, and they are coming off a shocking loss.

Meanwhile, NC State is without their best player, big man, Manny Bates. They are relying on a sophomore big man who is improving fast, but was torched for 36 by a 6’7 forward just a few weeks ago. State’s best defender, Casey Morsell, is hobbled. They aren’t shooting it very well, they are struggling mightily on the offensive boards, and they are starting a lineup of a freshman, 3 sophomores, and a senior.

If someone would have told you that NC State is going to lead this game by 13 or that they were going to take it to overtime, you would’ve called them crazy. But guess what, it happened.

So sure, you’re allowed to be pissed off at the fact that they lost the game. Pissed off at how they lost it and play Monday Morning Quarterback, but the truth is, even as a loss, this was a huge step forward for this NC State team.

 

This team showed confidence, heart, and hustle all day long

Keatts is going to be a topic of discussion after losing a 13 point 2nd half lead, and some of it is warranted. But the hardest thing for a coach to do is get their team to play hard, play together, have confidence in themselves, and expect to win no matter who they face. Keatts is doing this and has done this, with every team he’s had. He himself is a world-beater and loves being overlooked. And he’s instilled that in his teams. His rosters haven’t been stacked. His teams almost never out-talent people aside from early season non-conference games. But his teams constantly outwork people.

That was the case in this one. NC State was hungrier, they were more ready for the moment, and they were locked in until the end. Credit Keatts for all of that. You can implement X’s and O’s at any point, but being able to motivate your team and have them play as a unit is something a coach either has or they don’t.

Undone by youth, inexperience, and poor decision making

State was up 8 with 5 minutes to play. This is when it all started to fall apart.

First, Cam Hayes was pick-pocketed AGAIN. This was the 2nd time this game, and the 3rd or 4th time this season. This is unacceptable for a PG, period. You should maybe be picked clean like that once a season (if that). I’ve said it a million times on here. Cam Hayes will not be a true PG until he learns how to keep his dribble lower. His crossovers are quick, but they’re high and they leave the ball exposed for way too long at this level. These types of turnovers are the worst because they lead to a quick and clean bucket on the other end. Anyways, this led to a Jayden Ivey layup.

Keatts loves to give his guys a long leash. He believes empowering his players will lead to them playing with more confidence, and for the most part, he’s right. NC State isn’t even in this game without freshman Terquavion Smith’s 21 points. Those 21 points are a product of a confident player feeling like he can go out and play his game without being reined in by his coach. However, at the same time, this approach has its negatives. Smith took 3 jumpers over the next 2 minutes (on one he was fouled and knocked down 2 free throws.) The kid has been hitting all day, so maybe you’re fine with it. But maybe this was also a lesson to be learned. No matter how good a guy is playing, when it’s closing time, you go to your closer.

Under 5 minutes, with the lead, when it’s time to close, to nail the coffin shut, you put the ball in Seabrons’ hands and let him go. That’s it. No Hellems fade-aways. No dribble-drive pull-ups by Cam Hayes. No contested corner 3s from Morsell. Only Seabron creating, scoring, getting to the line, or finding a wide-open shooter. That should be the only allowed outcome for Keatts and hopefully, he’s seeing that.

There has to be a fine line between instilling confidence and letting them play and directing them on what needs to be done to win this game.

Terquavion Smith is emerging as a true scorer

When Casey Morsell went down with an ankle injury it looked like State was in serious trouble. They lost their best on-ball defender and a guy they were relying on for 8 to 10 points per game. However, that opened up more minutes for freshman Terquavion Smith, and Smith took full advantage. He scored 17 in the game Morsell went down, 14 in the next game as a starter, and led the team with 21 in this game.

Smith is just a freshman, and as with all freshmen, there are going to be ups and downs, but for now, Keatts needs to keep this kid in the starting lineup and let him grow. He’s a star in the making on offense and isn’t a bad defender either. The added scoring is something this team desperately needs, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a drop-off defensively when he’s in there instead of Morsell.

 

Gameplan was solid

We talked about it after we watched the Rutgers game. For NC State to have a chance, they need to follow the Rutgers blueprint. Play the bigs one on one down low, lock up guards, and limit good 3 point looks.

Keatts had his guys following this to a t. You can get on the man for his lack of play-calling down the stretch or the fact that his players just didn’t make plays when they needed to, but for about 37 minutes, his team was locked in on the strategy. Dowuona held his own in the paint. Edey struggled, but there was no answer for Williams. This, however, was the trade-off you had to be ok with. Purdue rarely got open looks from 3, they limited Ivey for the most part (aside from the final 5 minutes of regulation and all of OT), and they locked up the shooters (Purdue shot just 21% on 5-21 from long range).

This should be expected of a Keatts squad. They always play hard, they always hustle, and they always defend. He’s a defensive coach despite the fact that he has a reputation for letting his guys play free on offense. This team made the #1 team in the nation look lost offensively and that’s a product of defensive strategy and building out a roster of long, athletic, interchangeable parts and can switch every screen and rarely get caught in a mismatch.

The point is, there is a lot you should be praising Keatts for in this game. I know good and well the narrative is going to be “Keatts has no offense!” or “Keatts isn’t a good Xs and Os guy.” The fact is, those are probably more true than not. But don’t let that get in the way of seeing just how masterful the gameplan was executed against a team that had every advantage coming in.

 

Moving on…

This could have been a season-defining win.

It wasn’t.

So now this team needs to learn lessons and move forward. They have two more non-conference games before they start the ACC season and they need wins. If you look at the ACC thus far, aside from Duke, the league is wide-open. NC State seems to be finding itself and if they can clean up some of these late-game mistakes, they can end up having a pretty darn good season.

For Keatts, it’s about continuing to develop Dowuona and Smith. It’s about circling back and putting in a series of sets that they can go to when the game is on the line. This team has no problems playing hard and playing together, but they need to learn how to close. This will be on Keatts and it won’t be done by motivating guys in the huddle. It will be done by making it very clear the expectations of possessions down the stretch. The reigns need to tighten as the clock starts to wind down. There needs to be clear direction on who had the ball in their hands and what types of shots will be acceptable. Keatts needs to own this. If they lose because Seabron wasn’t able to get it going down the stretch, that’s fine, but he needs to be the one dominating the ball and making plays. So far he’s shown a ton of success when he needs to force the issue. He gets in the lane and either scores or gets to the line. At this point, you win or lose with the ball in Seabron’s hands.

 

 

 

A pasta eatin', Wolfpack lovin' loudmouth from Raleigh by way of New Jersey. Jimmy V and Chuck Amato fanboy. All opinions are my own and you're gonna hear'em.

NC State Basketball

Kevin Keatts Postgame Press Conference After Pitt: BULLETED

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NC State Head Coach Kevin Keatts met with the media in his postgame press conference after the Wolfpack lost their ACC opener to Pitt at home 60-68. You can watch it here, or check out a BULLETED breakdown below.

  • We didn’t play well or sharp offensively.
    • You can look at the numbers, and I think, at times because the ball wasn’t going in the hole for us, it affected us on the defensive end.
    • It was one of those gritty games where you’ve got to figure out how to win the game, especially when the ball isn’t going in.
    • Terquavion Smith carried us early in the game, but a couple of our guys never really got into a flow, and offensively we struggled.
    • When we struggled, I thought we gave up some easy baskets on the other end.
    • Obviously, today’s kids, when the ball is not going in offensively, sometimes it affects you on the defensive end.
    • It wasn’t our night offensively tonight.
  • When you look at our team, what’s made us special this year is that we’ve been consistent and have 4 guys in double figures, and tonight we didn’t have that.
  • We had some good play from DJ Burns. He came in and did a good job.
  • We’ve gotta get back in the gym and get better. We’ll work on some things.
  • I have to stand up, take accountability, and get us better on the offensive end, and we’ll figure out how to make some shots.
  • Not to take away from Pitt’s defense, I thought we missed shots.
    • Surely, give them credit because they won the game, and I thought it was a slugfest, and they won the game that way, but I just thought we missed a lot of easy shots that we normally would make.
  • I remember looking out there at the game as we played, and some of the shots that he [Joiner] normally would make, even his drives to the rim, he didn’t finish.
  • They [Pitt] did a good job getting back in transition. A lot of Casey’s [Morsell] shots have come with him running the floor and getting out in transition.
    • They stayed at home. When you’re shooting the ball as well as he is, they did a good job of staying at home.
    • The reason we got so many open looks to our post guys as we rolled, was because they stayed with our shooters a lot.
  • No [they didn’t take too many three’s], that’s who we are.
    • For example, I thought Jack Clark got some great looks.
      • None of them looked good as they came off.
    • Certainly, Terquavion was hot early from 3 and made some shots.
    • It was a weird night for us offensively, and we weren’t clicking as much as I’d hoped we would be.
    • Like I said, we’ve got to get back in the gym, and we’ve got to get some shots up.
  • We’ve got no choice. We’ve got to move on.
    • The great thing about this is that, while unfortunately we lost our ACC opener, we’ve got 19 more of them to play.
    • We’ve got to figure out how to get it back on the other end.
    • It doesn’t define us. It was a good game. Give Pitt credit.
    • We’ve just got to go to work and get ready for our next game and then our next one after that.
  • We hope we play better than we have been playing offensively.
    • You feel bad for our guys, because everything had gone well for them offensively this season.
    • We’ve had great numbers against great teams, when you talk about playing against Kansas, Butler, and Dayton, and tonight, for whatever reason, we didn’t shoot the ball well. We have to make each shot.
  • If you look back on all of Jarkel’s shots, he has taken those all year long.
    • He just missed some, and he is normally pretty good with his pull-up.
      • He didn’t make those, and typically, he would make it to the free-throw line, but he didn’t have many opportunities there.
      • He missed his three-point shots.
    • I know him, and many guys will get to the gym later on. It’s not a mandatory thing, but I know those guys, and they will be working on their shot.
  • We’ve got to flush it.
    • We have to figure out what we did offensively and get better defensively.
    • We have to get back to work and get ready for Coppin State.
  • Our home opener [ACC] here, we wanted to win it.
    • It’s an ACC game, and you know how important these are, but at the end of the day, you can’t put your head down.
    • We’ve got a lot more basketball to play. We have had a really great start to our season, and as I have told the guys in the locker room, don’t let one loss define us.
    • We didn’t let the Kansas loss define us. We moved on, and we’ve got to do the same thing with this one.
  • We’re very encouraging.
    • One thing about guys that miss shots that normally make them, they’re not trying to miss, and so we are trying to give them as much confidence as we can.
    • We’re asking them to do other things to affect the game.
    • One thing I told Jack [Clark], because he has been our best rebounder, was ‘go in there and get you an easy basket, or go in there and get you an offensive rebound.’
    • It’s something to get you going. It’s amazing how it works.
      • You get an easy basket, and then get to the free-throw line to make a shot. All of a sudden, you’ve got your shots going on.
    • I’m telling those guys to do a couple of other things to impact the game.

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NC State Basketball

Men’s Basketball: Pitt 68 NC State 60: ACCDN HIGHLIGHT REEL & CONDENSED GAME

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NC State lost their ACC opener to Pitt tonight in PNC Arena 60-68. You can check out the Box Score here. Below are the ACC Digital Network’s Highlight Reel and Condensed Game.

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NC State Basketball

Men’s Basketball: Pitt 68 NC State 60: BOX SCORE

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NC State fell in their ACC opener tonight at home against Pitt, losing to the Panthers 60-68.

Below is the Box Score.

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NC State Basketball

Men’s Basketball: NC State’s ACC Stat Leaders Heading into Conference Play

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NC State will enter ACC play tonight, hosting Pittsburgh at 7pm. Here’s a look at which Wolfpack players rank in the Top-10 in the ACC in individual statistical categories before tipoff.

Point Guard Jarkel Joiner ranks 3rd in the ACC in Scoring, averaging 17.3. Sophomore Guard Terquavion Smith averages 16.1, which ranks 8th.

Dusan Mahorcic ranks 9th in Rebounds per game, averaging 7.3.

Mahorcic leads the ACC in Field Goal Percentage, making 65.3% of his Field Goal Attempts. Guard Casey Morsell ranks 10th, shooting 53.9%.

Joiner also ranks 8th in Free Throw Percentage, making 85%.

Morsell is shooting an insane 53.2% from deep, and has shot 14 more threes than Hunter.

Smith is tied for 2nd in the ACC in Assists per game, averaging 5.3.

Jack Clark is tied for the lead in Steals per game, averaging 2.13.

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