NC State regained form after a questionable outing (still a win) against Campbell, crushing FIU 107-74.
This was a game where you were really able to see just how deep and versatile this roster is. Five guys were in double figures, a guy we figured would be a top 3 scorer only had 2 points, Terquavion Smith was off most of the night, and our ‘offensive’ big man, DJ Burns, only mustered 3 points.
So how the heck did NC State win by 33 points against a feisty Florida International team? Let’s take a closer look.
Here is ‘our take.’
Terquavion Smith had one of his off nights, only this year he had backup
There were nights last season when Smith just couldn’t get it going. In fact, there was a handful of games where the elite-scoring freshman finished in single digits. NC State lost every single conference game where this was the case. But this is a different player we’re watching this season. Smith isn’t going to be on fire every game, but he’s still able to have an impact when the shots aren’t falling. Part of that is because he now has guys around him that he can trust to carry the load.
Smith was 6-15 shooting and only 1-8 from 3pt range. Usually, that would mean that the NC State offense sputtered and was lifeless. But that wasn’t the case. Smith did have 15 points despite the struggles and had 6 assists and 6 steals (plus 3 boards), but most of the offensive load was taken on by backcourt mates Jarkell Joiner and Casey Morsell who combined for 52 points on the night. We’ll talk more about them in a second, but the fact that NC State could put on a performance like this on a Smith off-night should signal to you that this team is not going to be anywhere near as one-dimensional as they were last season.
Jarkell Joiner and Casey Morsell showed you why this offense is dangerous
Joiner had already scored 17 and 18 in his first two games, but he did so despite not really having his shot falling from outside. In this one you got to see what Ole Miss fans saw a lot of over the past couple of years. This guy has the ability to control a game offensively. He not only dished out 5 assists, but he was on fire, scoring 26 points, going 9-15 from the floor and 6-8 from long range. He also had 3 steals. Joiner isn’t as electric of a scorer as Smith, but he’s not that far off. He can do it at all levels, just like Smith, and he’s a little more physical. Having these two guys in your backcourt is going to ensure that you’re in almost every game.
Meanwhile, we’ve said over and over that Casey Morsell simply needs to work on knocking down open 3s if he wants to have a successful offensive season with this group. When you have Smith and Joiner on the perimeter, you have two guys were can get to the rim and finish, while still having elite outside shots. That means defenses need to be keyed in on them, and help side needs to be cheating a bit if they get a step on their defender. This is going to leave guys wide open on the wing and most of the time that has been Casey Morsell. If he can knock down those shots, this offense becomes even more dangerous.
Last night you saw Morsell do just that. He scored a career-high 26 points, going 10-13 and 6-7 from 3. He also had 6 boards. Add to the fact that he’s probably your best or second best on the ball defender, and it feels like the 6’3 senior is the perfect do-it-all glue guy every great team has.
Last night showed you that this team is going to be physical and tough when challanged
One of my favorite quotes comes from Mike Tyson when he said “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
FIU came out playing very physically and very aggressively. Now, they aren’t all that strong of a team, but that’s the mentality they came into this game with. They wanted to impose their will and punk NC State by getting in their heads and making the game chippy at the start.
That ended pretty quickly though. Once FIU realized that NC State was going to give it right back to them and was the stronger, bigger team, that chippiness went away, and their confidence followed.
This might not mean a lot to most fans, but this is a game within the game. Some teams challenge you, hoping you’ll back down to the bully, and last year, NC State would do that from time to time (especially if it was a game they weren’t as interested in). When you let these teams get in your head, you’ve already lost. However, this team invited it, gave it right back to them, and used it as motivation to bury them. *I think Joiner’s attitude and confidence are a big reason for this.
LJ Thomas making a move for minutes
Thomas was a guy we didn’t think we’d see much of this season, mostly because they have Joiner, Smith and Pass who would dominate the backcourt minutes. However, Pass has struggled a bit with his shot and turning the ball over, opening the door for Thomas.
Thomas is a big freshman PG. He’s 6’2 and 200lbs and in his first real action last night, he showcased a pure jumper and some nice PG skills. Thomas went 5-7 from the floor and 2-2 from 3pt range for 12 points. He also had 2 assists, 2 rebounds, and a steal, without turning the ball over once. And this was in just 12 minutes.
Now, we knew Thomas was a pretty good scorer. He was more of an offensive-minded PG at the HS level and Keatts keyed on him early. The question was, what is he? Is he a PG? Does he have the speed and instinct to play that position in the ACC? Or is he a SG, and if he is, is he a crafty enough scorer to get buckets in the ACC? Well, I’m still not sure yet if Thomas has the instincts of a true PG, but there were a few early signs that he might.
For one, when trapped in the backcourt, usually a freshman panics, leaves his feet, and tries to make a jump pass over the top. When he leaves his feet, it gives off-ball defenders a chance to make their break and intercept the pass. However, Thomas didn’t do that. He faked a pass over the top, used his thick frame to step through, and made a nice easy point-to-point pass to break the press.
Another play that stood out was a full-court pass that Thomas made to Mahorcic. It was a tough pass, having to loft it over the defender, but with enough touch that it didn’t go out of bounds on the opposite baseline. He threaded the needle, his Mahorcic in the bread basket giving him a clear lane for an easy layup. Unfortunately, Mahorcic missed the bunny, but it wasn’t because of the pass.
Thomas must have been putting in some good minutes in practice because he came in pretty early in this one after not playing a minute vs. Campbell. There is going to be a battle for backup guard minutes, between Thomas and Pass, so it will be interesting to see how that goes forward.
We keep learning about our bigs
Like I’ve said for a while, we have 3 real big men, and the key will be finding out what matchup is right for which guy. Against Campbell, we saw a big that we really had nobody for. In fact, I think a mature Ernest Ross would be the best guy for that matchup one day. However, today he’s still a little too raw. Instead, State had to rely on Mahorcic, Burns and Dowuona. None of which had the footspeed to slow him down. The good news, however, is that they likely wont face another big like that all season long.
In this game, we saw a super tall, thin big, which NC State will see a few times in the ACC. What we found out was that Mahorcic’s muscle really worked well against this. He was able to body him down in the paint, create some space and finish. On defense, he never let him get deep enough to be a problem. Mahorcic finished with 12 points, 7 boards and 3 steals.
On the flip side, Burns struggled in this one. The pure length of the 7’1 Pinkey didn’t allow him room to maneuver on offense. His width was off-set by the 7 footers height. This makes us believe that Burns is going to see his most success against thicker bigs, with less length. These are the type of guys he was dominating all season long in the Big South on his way to player of the year. The more matchups we see, the more it will become apparent on which guy is right for Keatts to feature in the paint.
Ernest Ross is almost there.
Man, Ross is going to be a game-changer at some point. He finished this game with just 4 points and 3 rebounds in 18 minutes, but he was 2-3 shooting and also had 3 big blocks. I’ve said it over and over, Ross is a natural shot blocker. He has great timing and gets off the floor fast. They key for Ross is for the game to slow down around him. There are times when he gets a little ahead of himself and rushes things, but once things slow down, he’s going to be a guy that can really give you that athletic shot blocker on the paint and the above-the-rim scorer on offense.
Oh and don’t get mad when you see Ross take a 3 here and there. The guy was a really good 3pt shooter in HS and once he sees a few go down he’ll start building confidence in that part of his game. And once defenders have to respect his shot, it’ll open up lanes for him to get to the rim, and that’s where the real highlights start happening.
Still waiting on Jack Clark to get it going
Clark scored 15 points and had 7 boards in the season opener vs. Austin Peay, however he’s struggled a bit in the last 2 games. But struggling migh not be the right word. He’s just been a big complacent and his shots haven’t been falling. Instead of forcing the issue, Clark has kind of just passed up shots and played within the offense. He’s also continued to provide solid defense, so he hasn’t really. hurt NC State, he just hasn’t been helping in the way we expected.
In this one, he only played 11 minutes as Ross and Gantt got most of the run at the 4. Clark finished with just 2 points and 1 assist. That said, I think Clark just needs to see a few shots go down. This is a guy who was dominant in the Bahamas, played great in the exhibition and then did well in the season opener. Clark does need to show a little more physicality against stronger opponents, but I think that will come.
Clark might be one of the team’s top-3 3 point shooters by the end of the season, so just give him some time. However, it’s nice to see all the options Keatts has when guys struggle or just don’t have it on a particular night.
It’s Not Over Till It’s Over
Look…I know the odds of NC State’s Men’s Basketball team going to the NCAA Tournament is next to zero percent.
In fact, according to Bart Torvik, the Wolfpack have a 1.1% chance of making the Dance as an at-large bid.
Don’t accuse me of wearing rose colored glasses, because I’m not. The fact remains, it’s not over until it is over.
What would have to happen for NC State to make the NCAA Tournament?
More than likely, NC State would have to win out the rest of the way, in games against Boston College, @ FSU, @ UNC, Duke and @ Pitt.
Maybe there’s a scenario where the Wolfpack beats BC, FSU, Pitt and beats either Duke or UNC. In order for that to play out, I imagine the Wolfpack would have to make a splash in the ACC Tournament as well.
Or maybe NC State could earn a bid winning 4 of 5 if they all of a sudden put together astronomical offensive and defensive efficiency numbers, which thus far has killed their position in the NET Rankings.
Either way, you would need some legit Cardiac Pack vibes for this team to make the Dance.
Call me unrealistic, but I think NC State should be in the NCAA Tournament every single season. Historically speaking, heading into this season, NC State ranked 27th for the most wins in college basketball history. If I lowered the standard a bit to 75%, accounting for an off year every now and then, the program is still way off the mark.
Read into this what you will, but if the Wolfpack doesn’t go to the Big Dance this year, that means they will have only gone twice in the past 7 years, and in my opinion, that’s unacceptable.
With that being said…GO PACK!
#6 NC State 70 UNC 80: BOX SCORE (with notes)
#6 NC State was defeated by their rival UNC this evening, falling 70-80 to the Tar Heels. Below is the Box Score with notes underneath.
- This game came down to shooting.
- UNC shot 50.8% from the field and NC State shot 35.2%.
- The Tar Heels shot an insane 52.4% from three, hitting 11 from beyond the arc.
- The Wolfpack shot 9 of 27 from deep.
- Junior Guard Aziaha James led the Pack with 24 points (10-24), and also grabbed 9 rebounds.
- Senior Forward Mimi Collins had a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds.
- The Pack needed to feed Collins. She was 3 of 6 from the field.
- Junior Guard Saniya Rivers had 13 points (4-13), and knocked down 4 three pointers (3-6).
- Senior Guard Madison Hayes had 11 points (4-12) and 9 boards.
- Senior Center River Baldwin struggled, hitting 2 of her 9 shots.
- The Wolfpack did manage to score 17 second chance points, compared to UNC’s 7.
- They also made 11 free throws, compared to UNC’s 5.
- UNC played extremely good defense, but NC State missed an obscene amount of shots around the rim.
- The Tar Heels looked like the better team tonight, leading for 3/4th of the game.
The Wolfpack will play at Duke on Sunday at 5:30pm on ACC Network.
#6 NC State Looks to Sweep Rival UNC This Evening
The 6th ranked NC State Women’s Basketball team is looking to sweep their rival UNC this evening at 8pm on ACC Network. Back on February 1st, the Wolfpack beat the Tar Heels 63-59. At the time NC State was ranked 5th, and UNC was ranked 24th.
Since arriving in Raleigh, Wolfpack Head Coach Wes Moore has led NC State to a 13-9 overall record against the Tar Heels, but they are 4-6 in Chapel Hill under his watch.
NC State lost to UNC the last time the game was played in enemy territory, falling 46-57 loss in Carmichael Arena on January 15th of last year. In that contest, the Wolfpack were ranked 11th and the Tar Heels were ranked 22nd.
If NC State wins tonight, it will mark the 4th time that Moore has led the Wolfpack to sweep UNC in the regular season.
Historically, NC State holds a 63-54 advantage in the series against UNC, but they are 20-30 on the road.
NC State’s Wes Moore is 1 of 15 on the Late Season Watchlist for the Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year Award
NC State Women’s Basketball Head Coach Wes Moore is 1 of 15 on the Naismith Late Season Watchlist for the Coach of the Year Award.
The leader of our Pack 🐺🐺
— NC State WBB 🐺🏀 (@PackWomensBball) February 21, 2024
Currently, Moore has led NC State from being unranked in the preseason polls, to #6 currently. The Wolfpack are 23-3, and numerous publications project them to be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Moore was a finalist for the Naismith Coach of the Year Award in 2020-21 and a Semifinalist in 2015-16.