NC State Basketball
OUR TAKE | On NC State’s 84-60 smackdown of #16 Duke
After ACC losses to Pitt, Miami, and Clemson, NC State fans were getting pretty nervous about this season starting to look a lot like last season. Today, it’s a different story. A different feeling.
That’s because NC State didn’t just upset #16 Duke, they ran them out of the stadium, beating them by 24.
This win allows Wolfpack fans to step back from the ledge, and while doing so, they’ll be able to realize that those 3 early ACC losses were to the current top 3 teams in the ACC. Clemson and Pitt are both 4-0 in the conference, while #12 Miami was 4-0 before last night’s loss at Georgia Tech.
The Pack is now 2-3 with a matchup this Saturday against Virginia Tech who has lost 3 straight.
But let’s get our focus back on the Duke win. Did anyone see this coming? Should we have? And what changed?
Let’s take a closer look and find out…
Greg Gantt sparked the fire
With Jack Clark out, things looked bleak. Clark was averaging 9 points and 7 boards per game. He’s 8th in the ACC in rebounds and State was about to face off against the biggest front line in the ACC.
Keatts was forced to turn to Greg Gantt, the 6’8 Junior transfer who had only seen action in 4 games this season due to injury. But Gantt turned out to be exactly what the Wolfpack needed.
I mentioned in my ‘keys to the game‘ piece yesterday that NC State was missing a physicality and grit that had gone missing since Mahorcic went down with a knee injury. Last night Gantt brought it back and did so right from the tip. In fact, Gantt had NC State’s first 3 rebounds, their first block, and their first 2 points of the game.
He set the tone by using his strength and athleticism to really fluster Duke in the middle. Every time they thought they had a good look in the middle, Gantt came flying in to contest. His positioning and anticipation off the ball were also huge for NC State. Gantt showed what a force he can be as an interior defender. He’s quick, strong, athletic, and not afraid to throw his weight around.
Gantt’s stat line isn’t eye-popping. He finished with 4 points, 5 boards, 3 steals, 2 blocks and an assist in 30 minutes, but he made it clear right off the bat that the Pack wasn’t going to back down and that if Duke wanted to win they were going to have to get physical in the paint, something they weren’t expecting and something their group of freshmen didn’t seem capable or willing to do.
Shot selection was much better for the most part
The other key to the game I mentioned yesterday was NC State’s shot selection. Too many times they’d bail out defenses by chucking up a long 3, or a contested jumper. This was giving away vital possessions, and while Smith is able knock down some of those longer 3s, his percentage on them hasn’t been great. There were much better shots that the Pack could be getting by just working the ball around a little more and making the defense work.
Last night we saw a much more patient Wolfpack offense. Smith came out early and took a long 3, but Keatts pulled him and went with LJ Thomas for a short stretch. I’m not sure if Keatts was trying to reign in Smith taking him out early, but it seemed to work. Smith played within himself from then on and the rest was history.
This team doesn’t need to take wild shots. Both Joiner and Smith are capable of doing massive damage by attacking the rim and making the defense react. With Morsell shooting near 50% from long range, you have great kick-out options if you see everything start to collapse. Oh, and you also have one of the most efficient offensive bigs in the conference sitting on the block in DJ Burns.
Last night NC State looked unstoppable. They looked like they had weapons all over the place because they do. Last night they just played smart enough and unselfish enough to take advantage of that.
The NC State defense overwhelmed Duke
NC State forced 21 turnovers on the night, which really was the difference maker. Duke could never get anything going because the Pack continuously swarmed and rarely allowed an open look. This was one of those nights when that constant press, switch everything defense paid off.
I’ve been critical of this defensive strategy. Too many times NC State has given up easy buckets on the press or watched teams exploit mismatches created off screen-switches, but last night it was Duke’s Kryptonite.
This Duke team doesn’t have very good guards. Jeremy Roach is solid, but not very athletic, Jaylen Blakes is just a sophomore and Tyrese Proctor is talented, but still just a freshman. NC State took advantage of all of these guys, speeding them up, getting them out of sync and encouraging them to force passes that aren’t there. Duke’s guards took the bait.
Roach was solid, but again, he’s not a game-changing guard. However, when the ball wasn’t in his hands it was Proctor and Blakes making bad decisions. They combined for 8 turnovers between them.
Then there were the bigs. The 7’1 freshman Derek Lively and the 6’8 freshman Mitchell combined for just 7 points. They struggled with the constant screen switches that didn’t allow them open lanes and a lot of times put a smaller player on them. This had them constantly confused on how to attack and from where. They ended up only taking 7 total shots in this game.
Duke’s star freshman, Kyle Filipowski is a 7-footer averaging 13.8 points and 8.6 boards. His versatility was supposed to bother DJ Burns, forcing him to come out to the perimeter where he could shoot over him or blow by him.
Neither happened. Keatts took a gamble and started Dowuona against Filipowski. Dowuona was able to guard him well enough on the perimeter and just allowed him to get his in the paint. Filipowski and Young (both centers) were the only ones really able to get anything going, but were still flustered by NC State’s swaming defense.
This defensive system eats bad guards and inexperienced players alive. Duke doesn’t have great guards and they have a ton of inexperience. This was a good matchup for NC State, but to me, I’m still not sold that this type of defense is what you want to roll out against every opponent.
The NC State guards killed Duke
When Smith and Joiner are playing the way they played, NC State is hard to beat. Smith played probably his best game of the season here. He didn’t force too many shots, he took what the defense gave him, but he constantly put pressure on Duke. He also shot 8-19 and 4-8 from 3, thanks to a much better selection of shots.
Meanwhile, when Smith wasn’t going off, Joiner picked up the slack. He too was hunting his shot in this one, which was a good sight to see. He finished 8-18 on the night and 5-10 from 3. He also dished out 9 assists and didnt turn the ball over once. With Joiner playing like this, Smith can get back to his comfort zone of focusing on bucket-getting.
DJ Burns, the closer
I’m going to bring up my “keys to the game” piece once again. This time focusing on my rant about situational strategy (which was connected to my rant about shot selection). When NC State gets big leads, it’s not time for jacking up 3s in transition. It’s not time to get loose with the basketball. It’s time to feed Burns.
They did that in this one. Down the stretch they cleared out the middle and just let Burns go to work. This led to State slowing the game down a bit, getting to the line more and securing the victory.
Now, Burns did a lot more than just close this game out. In fact, his 6-point flurry at the beginning of the game helped State build their massive lead. He finished with 18 points on 7-10 shooting and I felt was used really well in this game. Whenever NC State started going on a little drought or when their guards got winded, they just cleared out and let Burns do his thing. Having this option gives you team another dimension, and the fact that Burns was able to dominate a front line as big as Duke’s tells you that there aren’t many teams that are going to have an answer for this guy.
Time to give credit to Keatts
A lot of you hate this part. Those that blame Kevin Keatts for NC State’s shortcomings aren’t allowed to ignore giving him credit when you have a game like this.
He had his players ready. He started Dowuona which threw off Duke’s game plan early on. He played Gantt 3o minutes (although he kind of had to). He took out Smith early and calmed him down after he started freelancing a little too much. He featured Burns during big chunks of the game.
All of these things were good coaching moves. Keatts outcoached Jon Scheyer in this one, plain and simple.
Now the question is, can his team build off of this and replicate this level of play on Saturday? We’ll have to wait and see, but for now, enjoy what was one of the most fun NC State games we’ve gotten to witness in a long time.
NC State Basketball
NC State’s Terquavion Smith Will Forgo His Remaining College Eligibility & Declare for NBA Draft
Well, it’s official. NC State Sophomore Terquavion Smith will forgo his remaining two years of college eligibility and officially declare for the 2023 NBA Draft.
Here’s what Smith had to say to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony regarding his decision.
“I’m forgoing my college eligibility and going all the way in,” Smith said. “I’m thankful for everything the NC State coaching staff and fans have done for me. This is the right decision for me to take care of my family.”
“I showed a lot of different things this year,” Smith said. “Teams wanted to see me be more of a point guard, making the right play, making the right decisions. They wanted to see me improve my finishing, and I increased that. I showed I can be a leader.”
“I improved my grades. I’m a year closer to getting my degree now. You only get one chance to be a college student and get that college vibe. There was no rush for me. I’m ready to contribute to an NBA team now.”
“I’m feeling good about everything now,” Smith said. “I came back to do what I needed to do. I feel like I did everything the right way. I know what’s coming now in the pre-draft process because I’ve been there already and know what to expect. I’ll be a lot more confident in myself now. It’s going to be a straight grind.” (ESPN)
Smith earned 2nd Team All-ACC honors this year, averaging 17.9 points and 4.1 assists per game.
He currently ranks 30th on ESPN’s Top-100 2023 NBA Draft Prospect Rankings. In most NBA Mock Drafts, Smith is projected as a late first round pick.
Smith’s career scoring average of 17.1 ranks 8th in school history. He made 187 three point shots in two seasons, ranking 8th all-time in NC State history. His 96 made three-pointers last year are the most ever by a Freshman in school history, and his 91 made three-pointers made this year are the most ever by a Sophomore.
If Smith goes on to be taken in the 1st round of the 2023 NBA Draft, it will be the first person to do so from NC State since Dennis Smith Jr. was taken 9th overall in 2017. If Smith is taken in the first round, the would become the 17th player in school history to do so.
NC State Basketball
NC State’s Men’s Basketball 2022-23 Season: BY THE NUMBERS
NC State’s Men’s Basketball 2022-23 season has come and gone, and I thought we should take a moment to look back on this season BY THE NUMBERS.
- NC State finished the season with a 23-11 overall record.
- The 23 wins are the 2nd most of the Kevin Keatts era.
- In 2018-19, the Wolfpack had 24 wins (2 in the NIT)
- The 23 wins are the 2nd most of the Kevin Keatts era.
- The Wolfpack had 22 regular season wins.
- This was the most regular season wins since 2012-13.
- NC State had 12 ACC regular season wins.
- This is the most conference wins since they increased the slate of conference games to 20 in 2019-20.
- It’s the most conference wins since 1973-74, when the Wolfpack was 12-0 in ACC play. Obviously this stat is not representative of the best conference performance by NC State since 1973-74, because they played significantly more conference games than years past.
- The Wolfpack’s winning percentage in ACC play was 60%, which is the 2nd highest winning percentage in conference play under Kevin Keatts.
- In his first season in 2017-18, the Wolfpack’s ACC winning percentage was 61.1%.
- NC State shot 45% from the field this season;.
- This is the 2nd to worst shooting season under Kevin Keatts, trailing only 41.3% last year.
- The Wolfpack shot 34.7% from three-point range.
- That number is the 4th best in 6 seasons under Kevin Keatts.
- NC State shot 72.2% from the free-throw line.
- This is the 2nd best number under Kevin Keatts (72.5% last year was the best year).
- For the first time since 2018-19, NC State won the rebounding margin over their opponents on the year.
- It was the 2nd highest rebounding margin under Kevin Keatts, with +1.7 margin. (In 2018-19, the margin was +4.3)
- NC State averaged 77.7 points per game, which is the third highest number under Kevin Keatts, but the highest since 2018-19.
- The Wolfpack forced 477 turnovers, which is the 3rd highest total under Kevin Keatts, and the most since 2018-19.
- NC State only committed 320 turnovers, which is the lowest total under Keatts (328 in 2020-21, which was a shortened season, was the lowest before.)
- NC State held opponents to a 44.5% field goal percentage, which is the lowest since 2019-20, and the third lowest under Keatts.
- The Wolfpack held opponents to 31.6% from three, which is tied for the 2nd lowest percentage under Keatts.
- NC State had 434 assists, which is tied for the 3rd most in a season under Keatts.
- The Wolfpack had 152 blocks, which is the most in a single season under Keatts.
- NC State finished ranked 51 in KenPom’s
NC State Basketball
UNC Transfer Dontrez Styles Expected to Visit NC State Soon
UNC Guard/Forward Transfer Dontrez Styles (6’6″/210) is expected to be visiting NC State soon. According to a source, he was expected to take an unofficial visit tomorrow, but it has been rescheduled to Monday.
Styles entered the Transfer Portal on March 17th.
Over the past two seasons, Styles has seen limited action for the Tar Heels, averaging 5.9 minutes in 45 total games (15 this season).
Styles is no stranger to NC State. He played high school for Kinston (Kinston, NC), and was offered by Kevin Keatts. Styles was a consensus 4-Star prospect coming out of High School. 247Sports ranked him as the #62 overall player nationally in the 2021 recruiting class, and the #2 player in the state of North Carolina.
ON3 ranks Styles as the #21 player currently in the Transfer Portal.
NC State Basketball
All-AAC Temple Transfer Damian Dunn Visiting NC State this Weekend
According to a source, Temple All-AAC Transfer Shooting Guard Damian Dunn (6’5″/195) was expected to be at NC State today on an unofficial visit.
Dunn entered the Transfer Portal on March 20th.
— Damian Dunn 🇦🇸 (@Dam1anKD) March 20, 2023
Dunn averaged 15.3 points per game this season, earning 3rd Team All-AAC honors. He shot 41.1% from the field this season, and 34.8% from three-point land.
In 2021-22, he led the Owls in scoring (14.9), and earned 2nd Team All-AAC honors.
Dunn originally is from Kinston, North Carolina, but played his Senior season of High School for Meadowcreek in Georgia, finishing his high school career as a 3-star prospect.
With the almost guaranteed loss of Terquavion Smith, NC State will be in need for a dynamic scorer, and Dunn has proven that he can do just that at the collegiate level.
Currently, Dunn is the 16th ranked player in the Transfer Portal according to ON3.
Dunn is a Redshirt Sophomore this season, with 2 years of eligibility remaining.
As one who was crushed after the Clemson loss, I am thrilled we beat Dook. The Pack has broken my heart so many times I am reluctant to get my hopes up, again. I was a strong supporter of this team the whole season (before Clemson). I don’t understand the inconsistency in performance. I hate that Mahorcic and now Clark cannot play. Those guys played their hearts out and were (are?) critical pieces of the puzzle. They deserve better. All you statisticians, is it just me, or has Keatts had more injured starters than other programs? I mean this $#it… Read more »
Gonna have to start winning on the road now.
Huge credit to two players none of us expected anything from, Gantt and Dowuona.
Gantt’s stats, noted in the article, weren’t really out of the ordinary until you consider that he’d never started here, and never played 30 minutes. If Clark is able to return this season, and Gantt can keep healthy, the PF position is unexpectedly really strong.
Dowuona played 24 minutes for the first time since last season. He was a defensive force.
… continued …
Dowuona had 5 boards, 4 points (2-5), and a block while only picking up 2 fouls. Only two fouls allowed him to play hard and allowed DJ plenty of rest. And when DJ is rested, wow.
Game balls to those two guys.
And extra credit to LJ, he gave the guards all the rest they needed and played really well.