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.
Kevin Keatts Postgame Press Conference After Coppin State: BULLETED
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.
- I haven’t watched Miami at all, but I do know name recognition.
- 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.
- They wanted to see him pass the basketball, so I think he’s doing a really good job.
NC State’s Dusan Mahorcic Suffers Knee Injury vs. Coppin State
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.
Play has stopped after this Dusan Mahorcic injury. pic.twitter.com/luXKQa4eVW
— Bally Sports South (@BallySportsSO) December 7, 2022
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!
Men’s Basketball’s: NC State 94 Coppin State 72: Highlight Reel & Condensed Game
Men’s Basketball: NC State 94 Coppin State 72: BOX SCORE
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.