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The numbers don’t lie. It’s time to hand Ernest Ross the starting role.

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(image from Ernest Ross (@ykbpoppa) Instagram)

Ernest Ross looked really raw at the start of the season, and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. I figured that he was too thin and too young to compete with Dowuona for minutes in conference play, and he wasn’t polished enough at the 4 to take minutes away from the senior Hellems. So it was pretty hard to figure out where the freshman forward would slot in.

However, over the past few weeks, Ross has looked like a new man. He’s played with confidence, and he seems to be picking up the team defense pretty well. With Dowuona struggling to stop opposing bigs on the block, and Jalen Gibson not having much luck either, Keatts has started to tinker with Ross at the 5. Neither sophomores were producing anything offensively either, so what the heck, why not start getting Ross acclimated now? It can’t hurt anything.

Fast forward to now, and it’s starting to become pretty clear. Ernest Ross can make a difference on this team and he can do it on both ends of the floor.

Offensively, he’s been surprisingly efficient. He hasn’t shot much, but when he has, he’s putting it in the hoop. In fact, during ACC play, Ross is shooting 6-8 from the floor, good for 75%. He also gives State another guy who can run the floor and really finish on the break. (Remember that huge slam on the run-out against VT?)


Obviously, the Pack would love to have a big man on offense they could trust with the high screen and roll. Ross can really rise, so he’s an option for the lob, and while I want to not trust him with his back to the basket, he actually bodied up with a Louisville big and put in a nice baby hook in this one. Oh, and he hasn’t really shown it yet at his level, but the kid can actually shoot it from outside, giving State (eventually) a pick and pop option. Giving Ross more minutes, gives a new little wrinkle to the offense and I think that’s starting to be apparent. But the big thing Kevin Keatts likley had been worried about is defense.

NC State’s team was built to play aggressively out top on D. This leads to guards being out of position at times, but they get funneled into the middle where they would have Manny Bates (the league’s best shot-blocker) waiting. Bates’ injury really hurt, because suddenly you were putting a sophomore big in a position where he’s being asked to really block shots and protect the rim. Early on it seemed as if Dowuona wouldn’t be a devastating drop-off from Bates. However, as competition has gotten better, and as conference play has started up, Dowuona looks pretty overmatched.

Enter Ernest Ross.

If you read our pregame preview of this game, we saw this coming. In fact, we said, “It’s time for Ernest Ross.” Go ahead, go back and read it. Personally, I didn’t expect Ross to have a HUGE impact on the game. I just felt like, hey, what can you lose? Dowuona and Gibson aren’t giving you anything on offense. They are being overmatched on defense. Meanwhile, you have an elite athlete (although raw and young) sitting on your bench. Throw’em in there. You’re 1-4 in the ACC with a tough stretch coming up. If not now, then when?

Keatts did go with Ross, in fact, he played him a career-high 18 minutes, and to be honest, he should have played him more in the second half. Ross was everywhere. He was blocking shots, altering shots, knocking away passes and finishing when he had the chance down low.

He changed the game. Suddenly, when guards were getting in the lane, they were being challenged at the rim. Ross showed natural anticipation and timing on his challenges. This is something you really can’t teach. Either guys have it or they don’t. Ross seems to have it, meaning he knows when to go up and block a shot and when to stay home. This is what elite shot blockers are able to do. They aren’t falling for pump fakes or jumping early, taking themself out of position. To do this, you have to be a quick riser, and Ross is just that.

If you are doubting Ross’s impact on the game, look no further than this split from last night….

When Ernest Ross was on the floor (18 minutes). NC State won 47-21. 

When Ernest Ross was not on the floor (22 minutes). NC State lost 32-42.

Sure, this is just one game, but it’s another observation that should have this coaching staff carving out more and more minutes for this kid.

On top of last night’s performance, he’s actually been out-performing the bigs since ACC play started, however, it’s tough to compare since their minutes are so skewed. Ebe Dowuona has played 151 minutes in ACC play, while Ross has played just 51. But let’s take their stats and break them down by minute. Let’s see their true per minute efficiency.

Dowuona has played 151 ACC minutes. He has scored 21 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and blocked 9 shots in the 6 conference games.

Ross has played 51 ACC minutes. He has scored 13 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and blocked 3 shots in the 6 conference games.

Points Per Minute
Ross: .25
Dowuona: .14

Rebounds Per Minute
Ross: .15
Dowuona: .09

Blocks Per Minute:
Ross: .06
Dowuona: .06

During ACC play, Ross has out-produced Dowuona both in points and in rebounding. The two are tied in blocks. Now, couple that with what you saw last night with your eyes, and add in the fact that NC State murdered Louisville with Ross on the court.

This is mounting evidence that Ernest Ross is ready and at this moment is Keatts best option in the middle.

But is he REALLY ready? Will he keep this up? Who knows. The point is, it’s clear that Ross is giving you better interior minutes defensively during conference play, he’s giving you another scoring option, and he’s a freshman with a very high ceiling who needs to start gaining experience. He’s not a 5, but with Bates out, with this roster, in this situation, he’s the best 5 you’ve got. Next year, when Hellems leaves, Ross will likely be the one filling that role.

There’s no better time to get him acclimated to ACC play than right now. It’s Ernest Ross time.

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.

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Rev
Rev
10 months ago

I would say that the biggest downer for Dowuona and maybe Gibson, are their hands. DJ and Manny could catch anything. When on the floor together, their combined presence and ability to catch bad passes made it easy to work the ball inside. Hellems and Bates were not going to be as good as those two, and Hellems and Dowuona just ain’t even close. I thought Ross had 4 or even 5 blocks in the last game. So with improved defense, Ross earns more minutes.

Papajohn
Papajohn
10 months ago

Ernest is a power forward, so when we have a center that can play, he moves over. But right now we are desperate, so let’s give him more minutes. In the post game presser KK said we might see him in the starting lineup. So he was impressed, just like we were.
I would expect Duke to take it inside a lot, fouls will become an issue, so Ross will probably see the floor quite a bit.

Antbrown11
Antbrown11
10 months ago

I don’t know why you think Ross is not a 5. He’s the best option at 5 right now. I don’t think he should be starting but he should be getting equal minutes with Dowuona. I don’t know why Keats doesn’t like playing young bigs but young bigs that play early develop into older bigs that play well.

NC State Basketball

Kevin Keatts Postgame Press Conference After Coppin State: BULLETED

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NC State Head Coach Kevin Keatts met with the media after the Wolfpack’s 94-72 victory over Coppin State tonight. You can watch the press conference here, or check out a BULLETED breakdown below.

  • First of all we’re going to continue to pray for Dusan Mahorcic.
    • I do not have an update at this point. He’s with our medical doctors and our trainers and I will know more hopefully in the next 24 hours.
    • We will  give you some type of an update when we get one.
    • I just wanted to keep him calm. It’s tough and you guys look at them as my players. I look at them as my  kids.
    • It is hard to see any of your kids or any of those guys in that situation.
    • I was there just to calm him down and let him know we are with him. I am obviously praying for him.
  • Our guards were really special  tonight.
    • There were 3 great guards on the floor because Sam Sessoms [of Coppin State] was pretty good  also.
    • It was really good to see Jarkel Joiner bounce back after not having a great game against Pitt.
    • Terquavion Smith was a pro’s pro tonight.
      • He did a little bit of everything, he defended, he scored  the basketball, he passed the basketball.
  • We didn’t feel like we played well in the Pitt game and we wanted to come in here, have a better showing, and play both ends of the floor.
  • I’ll get a thousand  questions about Reynolds Coliseum and we should play every game in here, but don’t send those  questions to me, send them to somebody else, but it’s a great venue and it was a great night.
    • I’m really appreciative of our fans for showing up.
    • It was an electric night. I thought the energy was great. We had a lot of fun.
  • The ‘STATE’ jerseys looked great, I thought they were  outstanding.
    • Hopefully we can see them again, maybe they’re not just a 1-game deal.
  • During the game, I thought we had a good 1st half, but we didn’t close the 1st half the way I wanted to.
  • We came out, and I  thought we were playing a lot better in the 2nd half, and then unfortunately with Dusan Mahorcic’s  situation it took the air out of us a bit, but we closed the game.
  • I’m happy the way Ernest Ross played today.
  • They [Coppin State] did a good job getting back in transition.
    • A lot of Casey Morsell’s shots have come when he was running the floor and getting out in transition.
    • They stayed at home.
    • The reason we got so many open looks to our post guys when we rolled was because they stayed with our shooters a lot.
  • I’ll take them [Joiner & Smith]. I don’t want to trade them, so I’ve got to say I’ll take them. I’m keeping them. I’m not  throwing them in, so I’m keeping those guys.
    • They are good and tonight they were electric. They were really good.
    • Every run that Coppin made they were there to answer it.
    • Here is what we do in practice with those guys.
      • I need them to play against each other because they challenge each other to become  better, but I also have to develop some type of chemistry with them.
      • So early on in the season, it was those 2 guarding each other, and they made each other better.
      • In the end, I have now switched it so they have to play together, so they have a better understanding and feel on how to play together.
  • Coppin is a team that is really dangerous. People from the other side won’t have name recognition, but you look at the Power Five and the bigger schools they have played, that is what has been great.
    • Georgetown was an overtime game, maybe multiple overtime games, and the Maryland game was tough.
    • He [Juan Dixon] has done that against all competition. I am happy for Juan.
      • I remember him back when I was at Hargrave. I sent Lonnie Baxter to Maryland who played with Juan and I have seen him since he was a really young kid.
  • One of the best kids I could have ever recruited [Joiner], especially the point guard position.
    • He didn’t have to tell me. I don’t know if he went  home that night [After Pitt].
    • Obviously, he probably went in and took 2,000 shots that night or more.
  • The #1 thing these kids are here for is their education.
    • Today was the last day of class, meaning we are going into exams, so we have to figure out a good balance of when to practice.
    • Right now our priorities shifted to make sure the guys finish out the semester strong, and take care of their academics. It is a great balancing act.
  • You gotta let me get past tonight, they’re [Miami] good, very talented.
    • I haven’t watched Miami at all, but I do know name recognition.
      • I know Isaiah Wong seems like he’s been around for 7 years, and he’s played great.
      • I’ll get a chance to watch them starting late tonight and early tomorrow.
      • They’re  talented.
      • Jim Larrañaga has done a great job with his team, it’ll be a tough road game for us, as all of them are.
  • Our guards did a great job of controlling the game, thats the maturity that I’m looking for.
    • I’ve got a Senior that’s been around a long time, in Jarkel.
    • I’ve also got a guy that is an elite scorer, who a lot of the conversations I’ve had with him are: ‘control the game, finish the game, be efficient down the  stretch, and don’t settle.’
      • He did a great job of not just taking deep 3’s, even though he took the last one.
      • He drove the basketball and we got to the free throw line.
  • Amazing. It’s not just NC State, you could almost make an argument that it’s America’s team, the ‘83 run was great.
    • It feels like every time you see something about them, I have to stop what I am doing just to read. It gets your heart beating a little bit.
    • It’s a great team with great folks, it was a great coach.
    • We’re excited…we’re gonna bring them back.
      • I don’t know if I’m supposed to tell you that, but I think they’re supposed to come back in February to honor those guys and I think that’s the right thing to do…and if we can bring them back every week we should.
      • I think there were a few here tonight, and I’m glad our guys played well enough where our guys respect what those guys did.
  • You know he’s played so well and other people will say, you know, well he’s only averaged 16 points per game, you know the NBA scouts, they know he can score the basketball.
    • They wanted to see him pass the basketball, so I think he’s doing a really good job.
      • He’s either 1st or 2nd in the ACC in assists.
      • We’re seeing a young man grow up, and by the way, he’s saying to you guys: ‘Hey I can score if I need to, I just wanna show you I got a little bit more in my bag.’
      • But he’s really matured, you know he’s a kid.
        • And you know one of the reasons why he’s back is because he’s a kid and he enjoys his teammates.
      • You know when you saw Dusan go down, you know, I think he was affected more than anybody.

         

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NC State’s Dusan Mahorcic Suffers Knee Injury vs. Coppin State

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NC State Center Dusan Mahorcic suffered a gruesome looking knee injury tonight in the Wolfpack’s 94-72 victory over Coppin State in Reynolds Coliseum.

From what I’ve heard, Mahorcic suffered an injury to his kneecap, but the severity of his injury is unknown at this time. A kneecap injury can visually be a disturbing sight, and the NC State squad, especially Terquavion Smith, who had a good look at it, were emotionally moved in concern.

We will have to wait to see how long Mahorcic is out, but the need for DJ Burns to be able to play more minutes just became much more important. Also, Ernest Ross, who has always had a high ceiling, is going to need to grow up fast if Mahorcic is out for an extended period of time.

We are praying for you Dusan! Get well soon Big Fella!

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NC State Basketball

Men’s Basketball’s: NC State 94 Coppin State 72: Highlight Reel & Condensed Game

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NC State defeated Coppin State 94-72 in Reynolds Coliseum tonight. You can check out the Box Score here. Below is the Highlight Reel & Condensed Game from the ACC Digital Network.

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Men’s Basketball: NC State 94 Coppin State 72: BOX SCORE

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NC State improved to 8-2 on the year, defeating Coppin State 94-72 tonight in Reynolds Coliseum.

Only 2 Wolfpack players scored in double figures, and it was none other than the dangerous tandem of Terquavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner.

Smith led the team in points and assists, with 33 & 7 respectively. Smith wax clicking tonight, shooting 12-21 from the field, and 6 of 12 from three.

Joiner bounced back from a poor shooting performance against Pitt, scoring 29 points, shooting 11-21 from the field, and a blazing 5-7 from three.

Jack Clark had a poor shooting night, hitting only 1 of 7, but he managed to impact the game in every other way. Clark had 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals.

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