I’m back with another installment of ‘LOVED IT, HATED IT’ where I give you the 3 things I loved and the 3 things I hated from the recent game. Today, I’m getting candid on the Pack’s big 16-point win at Louisville. Here. we. go.
3 Things I LOVED about NC State’s win over Louisville
- Ernest Ross changed the entire game.
I bet you were sure I was going to lead off with Terquavion Smith’s big night, or Hellems hot hand. I’ll get to that because NC State doesn’t win this game without Ross. Sure, he only had 4 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks, but he did that in just 18 minutes. And it’s not just about the stat line. Ross altered at least 4 shots at the rim that he won’t get credit for and finally gave defenders something to think about when they get into the paint vs NC State. Ross showed great anticipation, gambled at the right times, and stayed home at the right times. I’ll tell you now, he’s a natural shot blocker. Some guys just have that timing and anticipation, and tonight we saw that Ross is one of those guys. Great news for NC State who desperately needs some rim protection. Watch out for Ross entering the starting lineup in the near future.
- Terquavion Smith and Jericole Hellems went OFF!
This is what I’m talkin’ about! Hellems and Smith were on fire. They combined to go 11-16 from 3 point range and 16-23 from the field. That’s almost 70% in both instances. That’s insane. But it really goes to show you what this team is capable of. They’re not going to shoot like that every time out, but this team does have good shooters, you just have to get them good shots. The play of Seabron and the attention he’s demanding is what is getting these looks for Smith and Hellems. But hey, you still gotta knock’em down, and last night they did that.
- ‘Relentless’ offense and defense from the Pack
Relentless was the word that the team decided on for their identity a couple of games back. In this game, they showed why. The barrage was constant. Every time Louisville made a run NC State answered back, and down the stretch, you saw Louisville come together and decide to ramp it up for a big run. They hit a bunch of tough shots and they’d start to swing the momentum. But every time, Smith, Hellems or Seabron would silence the crowd. That type of mental toughness can’t be undersold. Defensively, it was more of the same. They really did a great job not allowing open 3s and limiting the drives. This was one of the first games where they really cut off all drivers. In fact, Keatts even went zone a little bit. The big media sites keep commenting on that, but the zone really didn’t do much. This team is a high pressure, man to man team. That’s what they are built for and that’s what won this game, but hey, it’s nice to change it up every now and then. This team has what it takes to be a contender in this league, both mentally and physically, and I think they are just starting to realize it.
3 Things I HATED about NC State’s win over Louisville
- Dowuona’s lack of aggressiveness
Come on, big man! State needs more out of Dowuona if they are going to be competitive. In ACC play he’s really been exposed defensively. He has just 14 rebounds and 9 blocks combined in 6 ACC games this season. The kid is playing over 25 minutes per game, he’s 6’11, decently athletic, and long. So why is he averaging just 2.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks this season in conference play? He’s thinking instead of reacting and that it putting a damper on his aggressiveness. Every night it seems like another big goes to town on us. Last night it was Sydney Curry. The 6’8, 260lb junior only averaged 2 points per game coming in. He played less than 10 minutes per game. And he ended up with 22 points and 10 boards. Look, Ebe was put in a tough spot. He’s not ready to be a starter in the ACC as a sophomore, but here he is. He’s going to get better, and he’s working hard in there, but the truth is, unless he starts to anticipate better and impact the game with physicality or aggression, then Keatts has to start leaning on Ross in the paint.
- Casey Morsell’s lack of offense
Morsell is another case of a kid who is just thinking too much. You can tell, every time he catches the ball he’s stumbling a bit, caught between shooting it, passing it, or driving. He wants to make the right play so bad that he’s putting pressure on himself. It’s a shame too because early in the season you could see that he was emerging as a scorer for this team. The ankle injury set him back and now he’s trying to play catch up and find his role with them. But the thing with Morsell is that he HAS to figure this out because he HAS to be on the court. His defense is too valuable and NC State needs guys who can shut down opposing scorers. Morsell is that guy, but his lack of offense won’t allow it. He needs to just let it fly. NC State fans want Morsell to be a scorer. They want him to pull up and shoot with confidence. They recognize that this kid has leadership skills and a high game IQ, but we’ll never get to see those things blossom until he decides he’s going to stop playing tentatively on offense. For this team to contend in this league, Morsell has to start playing with confidence on offense and for that to happen he has to stop questioning his role. He needs to tune out the Tony Bennett voice that I’m sure is playing in his head from his time a UVA. Harping on shot selection, and not taking bad shots. You came here to get away from that, now just let it fly, son. This team needs you.
I didn’t hate anything else. Can you believe that? I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have something to say, but I’m not going to make up something that bothered me just to fill a stupid internet column. I mean, I know you want me to comment on Hayes, because Cam Hayes did go 1-7 from the floor, but he’s struggling with his shot right now, and you can’t hate on a kid for missing. State needed Hayes in the game down the stretch simply for his ball handling. West was hounding Seabron, and they were going to be pressing and fouling down the stretch, so you needed to have your best ball handlers and FT shooters on the floor.