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.
Kevin Keatts Postgame Press Conference After Pitt: BULLETED
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.
- For example, I thought Jack Clark got some great looks.
- 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.
- He just missed some, and he is normally pretty good with his pull-up.
- 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.
Men’s Basketball: Pitt 68 NC State 60: ACCDN HIGHLIGHT REEL & CONDENSED GAME
Men’s Basketball: Pitt 68 NC State 60: BOX SCORE
Men’s Basketball: NC State’s ACC Stat Leaders Heading into Conference Play
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.