NC State Wolfpack @ Louisville Cardinals
Time: 9:00pm | Wednesday, January 12th
Location: Louisville, KY
Ken Pom Line: Louisville -7
NC State took Louisville to the wire in their ACC opening 73-68 loss to the Cardinals and now head to Kentucky to look for revenge.
In their first meeting, NC State had 4 guys in double figures, led by Jericole Hellems with 18 and Terquavion Smith with 17. Cam Hayes added 15 and Seabron had his second-lowest point output of the season with 11.
The Cardinals had 5 guys in double figures, led by Malik Williams with 14 and Matt Cross with 13. Louisville hit 11 3s in the game, and limiting them from beyond the arc will be important for the Pack in this one.
Louisville is 4-1 in ACC play, good for second place in the conference. They’ve won 3 of their last 4, but most recently fell to FSU by 9.
Meanwhile, NC State is looking to stop the bleeding. The Pack has lost 6 of their past 7 and most recently fell to Clemson in a sloppy 70-65 loss.
Keys for the Wolfpack
If NC State wants to have any postseason hopes, this is really a must-win game. Next up for them is #8 Duke, in a game where they really don’t match up well with the Blue Devils. If they were to drop this one to Louisville, they will face a rough uphill climb going forward. Here are the keys to the game.
- Seabron needs to be aggressive early. Kevin Keatts mentioned in the Clemson post-game that he’d like to see Seabron be more aggressive in the first half. Up until now, the sophomore forward has done most of his damage in the second halves, when he seems more willing to want to take over games. So far, this hasn’t worked out well for NC State, as far as wins go. It’s likely that Seabron is trying to stay out of foul trouble (charges) and let the game come to him in the first half. Usually, this is a smart approach, but with NC State struggling offensively, they need him to have his foot on the gas from the opening tip. He’s going to have to be a high-volume shooter, whether he likes it or not. It’s really NC State’s only efficient option this season.
- Terquavion Smith needs to get back on track. Aside from Seabron (and at times Hellems), Smith is NC State’s best scoring option. However, he’s coming off his worst game of the season where he went 0-7 from the floor (all 3s). Smith had been hot from downtown, but he’s too good of an all-around scorer to be just hoisting up 3s. The Pack needs him to put pressure on defenses by getting in the lane and looking to score. He’s just a freshman, so he’s still learning, but you can bet the staff has gone over the film with him and will be pushing him to be in attack mode off the bounce.
- It’s time for Ernest Ross. Ebe Dowuona has done a decent job filling in for the injured Manny Bates as a rim protector, but since ACC play started, it’s been obvious that he’s not nearly ready to take the reigns. He only had 2 rebounds and not a single block against Clemson, a team that you knew coming in was going to attack from the block. It’s certainly not time to give up on Dowuona. He didn’t have a great game defensively the first time out vs. the Cardinals (he did have 7 points, however). But there is no reason that Ernest Ross shouldn’t be getting more minutes. Ross is very raw still, but the Pack needs an interior presence, and next year, when Hellems leaves, it’s likely Ross is going to have to fill that role full time. Whether it truly helps you immediately or not, you have to start getting the kid acclimated to this league, and fast. We expect to see a lot more Ross in this one.
- Casey Morsell, it’s your time. Morsell was finding his footing for NC State earlier this season, but an ankle injury that sidelined him for a couple of weeks really set him back. Since his return, Morsell has struggled with his shot and hasn’t had a double-figure scoring game yet. This has to change. Morsell is too good defensively to keep him on the bench, and his offensive ceiling is much higher than we’ve been seeing. Against Clemson, the junior did have 9 points, but on only 2-7 shooting (both 3s). Hopefully seeing the ball go through the hoop a couple of times will help him regain his confidence. He is a guy that can and should be giving you 12 points per game, and they’ll need him to start getting to that level in this one if they want to come away with the road win.
- No more long offensive lapses! NC State has a trend going. They come out hot, and then they go into a long funk, allowing teams back in the game. This is tough because, without a post option on offense, they really are forced to live and die by the jumper. This is where you need Dereon Seabron. Seabron isn’t a selfish player, but he is the only guy who can constantly get to the rim. When the Pack starts going into these funks, it needs to be Seabron who gets to the line, stops the bleeding, and gets them back on track. This piggybacks on our first point, but we are looking to him to recognize these situations and force the issue a bit more, especially early on. Seabron should be getting around 20 shots per game. It seems like a lot, and he might feel like he wants to get others involved a little more, but with this roster, at this point, there is no other choice. It’s time for him to be shooting for 25 to 35ppg. I know that sounds crazy, but unless other guys step up and score it, it’s your best shot at winning.
- Limit Louisville 3s. As we stated, the Cardinals hit 11 3s in the first matchup, and they shot nearly 40%. This is where they want to be, and NC State needs to make sure they don’t hit those numbers this time around. They really don’t have a huge advantage inside, so staying home and taking away the 3 ball is NC State’s best option. If Louisville beats you by going down low, so be it.