After losing five in a row, and falling to 0-3 in ACC play, NC State needed a win. Thanks to some stellar defense, and another outstanding performance from Dereon Seabron, the Wolfpack got just that. Here’s OUR TAKE on NC State’s big win.
Seabron at the point created all types of problems for Virginia Tech
Seabron at the point has changed everything (as Wolfertti told us it would). Keatts finally made the move against FSU and suddenly the offense was purring. It didn’t end up giving the Wolfpack a win in that one, but it certainly seemed like it unlocked something in this team that they were missing. Against, Virginia Tech, it finally paid off.
Seabron was a one-man wrecking crew. He had the Hokies on their heels all night long, going off of the high screen, needing just a sliver of daylight to explode into the lane and make a play. He finished with 21 points and 10 boards, once again, leading the team in both categories.
After starting strong, Tech took a charge on Seabron and it seemed as if it caused him to be a little less aggressive. He only had 4 points at the break. But in the second half, he turned that motor on high and was in attack mode on every play. This really bothered the Hokies. They were scrambling to cut him off on the high screen, they were sending help, they were fully focused on stopping Seabron. The one problem? There was no stopping him.
The sophomore guard was just too fast, too quick, too big, too physical and too slippery on drives to be stopped. They tried everything they could, but it didn’t work. He was getting to the rim and finishing everything. He had 17 of his 21 in the second half.
— ACC Men’s Basketball (@accmbb) January 5, 2022
The obsession with cutting off his driving lanes allowed Smith and Hellems to get open shot after open shot. Smith had 17 points and Hellems chipped in with 15. He was so good, that in the second half, even when Cam Hayes entered the game, Keatts had him at the 2, leaving the primary ball-handling to Seabron. This was the right move, and it paid off. Seabron is a jump shot away from becoming an NBA lottery pick and Virginia Tech had to find that out the hard way.
Ernest Ross is coming of age
We’ll get to Hellems and Smith in a minute, but we have got to call out freshman Ernest Ross. After not playing a single minute in the loss to FSU (we still don’t know why), Ross was the first (and only) big off the bench behind Dowuona. And Ebe got himself into some early foul trouble. This forced Keatts to turn to Ross. This could have been a catastrophe. Va Tech relies on and features their bigs. Suddenly, the only thing between Aluma and Mutts was Ernest Ross.
Fortunately for Keatts and Co, Ross was ready. The freshman didn’t dazzle in the box score, but he certainly played a big role in this win. He finished with 4 points and 3 boards in 15 minutes, but he did a good job at protecting the rim and delivered two big time buckets down the stretch.
The first was this massive slam on the break.
— ACC Network (@accnetwork) January 5, 2022
Then, with 40 seconds on the clock and State up just 5, Seabron missed a layup. But Ross was there for the offensive board and nifty put back. This was the backbreaker for the Hokies.
Ross is just starting to seem comfortable in Keatts system, and we believe he’s going to play a big role for this team as the season progresses.
Keatts changed it up and threw double-teams at Aluma
Keve Aluma is one of the more dominant bigs in the ACC (if not the nation), and NC State has a problem with defending the paint. So what was Keatts going to do?
Well, If you were the Hokies, you’d look back at the Purdue game where NC State let Purdue’s bigs go one-on-one, instead deciding to stay home on shooters. It worked, so you’d have guessed they’d be right back to that strategy vs. Virginia Tech.
Wrong. Keatts threw a little wrinkle in and decided to bring double teams anytime Aluma touched it on the block. You could tell this flustered him and that wasn’t part of the pre-game scouting report his coach had given him. Aluma was much less aggressive and played hesitant most of the night. He did finish with 18 points and 6 boards, but he never got into a real rhythm and seemed flustered most of the night.
Credit Kevin Keatts. The guy has taken a lot of heat lately, so it’s only fair to give him his coaching props when he does something like this. Doing this meant that his guard would need to have their heads on a swivel and be ready to rotate on when Aluma looked opposite for the pass. Which brings us to our next point…
The NC State defense was the best it’s been all season
Not just from an effort standpoint, although the effort was on max all night. This defense played extremely smart and communicated as well as I’ve seen a young team communicate in years. If you are going to double the post, you are asking for teams to beat you from outside. Only, somehow the Hokies weren’t getting clean looks despite the double. Credit the guards who were swarming, rotating, and communicating with each other on every rotation. Usually, good passing can beat any type of defensive rotation, but Tech was passing it crisply and quickly, however very few open shots were found.
Speaking of defense, how about the job they did on Justyn Mutts. The guy was coming off of a 20 point night vs #2 Duke and the Pack held him to 6 points and turned him over 6 times. The double team on the block when he got it down there really threw him for a loop. Again, I can’t stress enough how well the double teams worked on the Hokies. It was obvious they weren’t expecting that from NC State.
Even without Bates, this team is a rebounding juggernaut
We said in our pregame article that winning the battle of the boards was essential, and NC State did it (36-26). The crazy thing with the Pack is that their bigs aren’t doing most of the rebounding work. It’s the guards. And it’s really a product of throwing out a whole lineup of 6’4 or above guys. Oh, and credit Keatts here too, because getting guards to rebound isn’t easy, but he’s got these guy crashing the boards. Seabron finished with 10, Smith had 7, Hellems had 5, and there were a bunch of guys with 2 or 3.
Not sure if you all realize this or not, but despite the fact that NC State is without Bates, they rank 4th in the conference in rebounding and lead the ACC in offensive rebounding. Meanwhile, Seabron himself leads the ACC with 10 per game (.1 over Bacot from UNC).
They closed it out
This one looked a lot like a lot of other games we’ve watched this season. NC State starts well, goes into a funk, comes back, only to lose it at the end. Keatts kept saying it was just the sign of a young team, and that they were learning from it. He was right. Every time it looked like the Hokies were going to make a run at the end, NC State came up with a big play. You could sense that they had enough of letting games slip away, and they were going to push that much harder to make sure this one didn’t meet the same fate.
NC State is a Slight Underdog in ACC Opener vs. Boston College
NC State (4-2) will play their first ACC game of the 2023-24 season tomorrow on the road against Boston College (5-2), and they enter the game as slight underdogs. The Wolfpack are 1.5-point underdogs, and the Total is 150.5.
- NC State is 0-2 Straight Up as underdogs
- BC is 4-1 Straight Up as favorites.
- NC State is 2-4 Against the Spread.
- BC is 4-3 Against the Spread
- The Total has gone Under in 2 games for NC State, Over in 3 and Pushed in 1.
- The Total has gone Under in 3 games for Boston College and Over in 4.
- NC State is 6-4 in their last 10 games against BC Straight Up.
- NC State is 4–6 Against the Spread in their last 10 games against BC.
- The Total has gone Under in 5 games, and Under in the other 5.
#5 NC State 70 Vanderbilt 62: BOX SCORE (with notes)
The 5th ranked NC State Women’s Basketball team improved to 8-0 tonight, defeating Vanderbilt 70-62 in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge.
- Saniya Rivers scored 20+ points for the 2nd time this season, scoring 22 points on 8 of 14 shooting. She also chipped in 8 rebounds and 2 steals.
- River Baldwin posted her first double-double of the season. She scored 12 points and grabbed 10 boards.
- Aziaha James has now scored in double figures in 7 of 8 games, scoring 14 points tonight, shooting 6 of 10 from the field and 2 of 3 from beyond the arc.
- Freshman Zoe Brooks led the Pack in steals (4) and assists (4).
- NC State didn’t shoot well, making only 39% of their shots. Fortunately, they held Vandy to 34.3% shooting.
The Wolfpack will host Illinois State on Sunday at 2pm.
NC State Stat Leaders Heading into the ACC Opener vs Boston College
This Saturday, NC State heads to Boston College for the now-annual early ACC opener. The Pack will face off against the Eagles at 4pm on ACC Network. Here is where the team is statistically after 6 games.
- Casey Morsell leads NC State in scoring with 14.5 ppg.
- The Pack has 4 double-digit scorers this season. Morsell (14.5), Jayden Taylor (13.3), DJ Burns (13) and DJ Horne (11.2)
(Last season State had 4 double-digit scorers as well. Terquavion (17.9), Joiner (17), Burns (12.5) and Morsell (11.8))
- After their top 4 scorers there is a big dip. Parker comes in at 6.8, O’Connell at 6.3, and Middlebrooks at 5.5 ppg.
(Last season Jack Clark was 5th on the team in scoring at 9 points and Mahorcic was at 8.7. However, both guys missed a large chunk of the season.)
- Burns is leading NC State in rebounding this year at 5.3 per game. Diarra is next with 5.3 (but is currently hampered by an ankle injury.)
- O’Connell is leading NC State in assists with 3.3 per game, and Burns is up next with 2.5. PG DJ Horne is only averaging 2.
- LJ Thomas and Mike O’Connell are tied in leading the team at .15 assists per minute.
- Jayden Taylor is leading NC State in 3pt %, shooting an outstanding 45.8%, while Morsell is up next at 34.6%. Horne is close behind at 33%.
(LJ Thomas is shooting 50% from 3, but only has 2 attempts.)
- Burns is leading the bigs, shooting 56.5% from the floor, while Middlebrooks is close behind at 54.2%. Dennis Parker Jr is coming in at 45.2%.
- For the guards, it’s Casey Morsell leading the way at 44.6% from the floor, while O’Connell is next up at 43.4%. Taylor is shooting 42.4%, and DJ Horne is struggling a bit, shooting just 34.8% from the field.
- Jayden Taylor is turning the ball over the most at 1.8 times per game, while Burns is next at 1.7. Morsell is at 1.5 and O’Connell is at 1.2. DJ Horne has been doing a good job of protecting the basketball, turning it over just .3 times per game.
NC State 52 Ole Miss 72: Box Score (with notes)
NC State’s Men’s Basketball team lost it’s second straight game tonight, losing 52-72 on the road at Ole Miss in the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge. Below is the Box Score with some notes below.
- Ben Middlebrooks posted a double-double, with 13 points and 12 boards. To be honest, Middlebrooks was the only bright spot in this game.
- Casey Morsell was the only other player to score in double figures (12 points), but it wasn’t pretty, shooting 5 of 14 from the field.
- One of the poorest statistical shooting performance I can remember.
- NC State shot 31.8% from the field and 12% from three (3-25).
- The Wolfpack’s DNA on defense is turning over their opponent, and they were unable to do so tonight, turning over the Rebels only 7 times.
- For comparison, the Wolfpack turned it over 13 times, giving them a Turnover Margin tonight of -6.
- Heading into tonight, they averaged a Turnover Margin of +7.8.
- Ole Miss scored 13 points off of turnovers, compared to NC State’s 4.
- This is the first time this season that NC State failed to force their opponent to commit at least 10 turovers.
- NC State was -25 when D.J. Burns was on the court, which was the worst on the team.
- NC State was +3 when L.J. Thomas was on the court, and +2 when Ben Middlebrooks were on the court. They were the only two players in the positive.
- Thomas and Middlebrooks should have earned themselves some more playing time going forward.
- Ole Miss’ length was problematic for the Wolfpack, blocking 9 of their shots.
There will be more analysis on this game coming tomorrow.