Notre Dame came in struggling. They were 1-8 in conference and had lost 7 of their last 8. On paper this looked like an easy home win for NC State, but in reality this wasn’t going to be a cakewalk at all.
For one, Notre Dame doesn’t play a true big man. They have Nate Laszewski, who does most of his damage outside. He’s shooting over 40% from long range and wants to pick and pop. The problem for NC State is that DJ Burns is playing 30 minutes a game now, which is a lot of him, and he’s not quick enough to guard a guy like Laszewski that far out.
Putting Burns in action that far out is going to through everything out of whack. ND’s guards are going to get mismatches they can exploit, or they’ll be able to turn the corner if Burns doesn’t hedge and cut them off on ball screens (which he’s not very good at.)
Once those ND guards get in the paint, they can score alright, but they also like to find shooters on the wing, and ND has tall shooters who can knock it down.
On top of that, Terquavion Smith was coming off a pretty bad fall and he might not be 100%.
As it turns out, Burns had trouble guarding the high screen, the ND guards were creating havoc and their shooters were knocking down 3 after 3. Meanwhile, Smith was off all night.
So how did NC State pull this off?
Jarkell Joiner stepped in and took control
With Smith not himself, Jarkel Joiner stepped up in a huge way. The senior guard was putting pressure on the defense all night, and did a great job stepping in as the main scoring threat with Smith struggling. Joiner finished with 26pts and 6 boards. He only turned the ball over once. Joiner is your MVP in this one.
Keatts masterful move against the zone
Notre Dame jumped out to their largest lead in the first half when they went into a 2-3 zone. They were backing the back line and extending the top. This left Burns wide open in the middle to take the 15 footer. They were banking on Burns missing that shot, and they bet right. Burns doesn’t shoot that 15 footer as well as one might expect, but he was so open he almost had to take it.
After a few missing, NC State’s offense looked lost and stagnant. Keatts decided to move joiner into the high post and take out Burns. This was a great move, as suddenly that flash to the middle was a wide open jumper for a guy who thrives on mid-range jumpers. After he hit a couple, Notre Dame switched to a 1-3-1 zone, but that was leaving too much room on the wings and the corners for State shooters.
Eventually, the Irish went back to some man, and Burns started to take over.
This was the game within the game that I’m not sure people paid attention to. Keatts made moves that won this game, so give him the credit he deserves.
DJ Burns is such a monster
No one can stop Burns. When he gets it on the block, he scores. But when teams throw double teams at him, he finds the open man. NC State could very easily run their entire offense through DJ Burns if they wanted to. But they choose to use him in spurts, which I think keeps him fresh and keeps defenses on their toes. I mean, they also have one of the best guard tandems in the nation you have to worry about. Burns finished with 14 points, 4 boards and 3 assists.
Casey Morsell deserves more credit
Terquavion Smith, Jarkell Joiner and DJ Burns get the hype, but no one has been more consistent than Casey Morsell. He’s shooting a blistering 44% from long range on the season, is scoring at the bucket and is the teams best defender. Morell isn’t flashy, but he might be the glue that is really putting this NC State run together.
Ebe Dowuona is coming into his own
When Mahorcic went down, State fans were worried. Could Burns handle this big of a load? Could he play 30+ minutes per game? And if he does, could Dowuona spell him? Well, Ebe has quietly been a real surprise for NC State for the past few weeks. He was a key in this game because he was able to guard the ND bigs on the perimeter without fouling. He also has been adding a little offense to his game. He looked like a mini Burns in this one, going 3 for 4 from the field, even showcasing a little lefty hook. He added 3 blocks as well. If Dowuona can become a guy that you drop the ball down to for a bucket, then heck, State might finish the season with 3 viable bigs (something almost no team in the conference has).
Smith was off, but dropped 6 assists in this one, I’d love to see even more!
Thank God the kid is ok. I wasn’t sure he was going to suit up in this one, but I felt as if, if the Dr. cleared him, he’d play. He wore a little back brace in this one, and I’m not sure if that threw him off or not, but he just never could get it going. But, despite his struggle shooting the ball, he was doing a great job of facilitating. He had 6 assists on the night. This is where Smith has really improved. I know he wants to score and keep his average up, but this kid is SO dangerous when he starts attacking and dishing. I’d like to see him start trying to get 10 assists and 12 points per game. Cut down on the long range bombs and instead put pressure on the d with drives and dishes. NBA scouts know Smith can score. There’s not question. But if this kid started throwing up a few double digit assist games and then plop down a 30-piece once in a while, it would certainly move him up the draft boards.
NC State to Honor David Thompson with Statue Outside Reynolds Coliseum
RALEIGH – NC State University will pay tribute to three-time All-American David Thompson with a statue sculpted in his honor that will be placed outside of Reynolds Coliseum.
The unveiling will take place at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 6, the day of the Wolfpack men’s basketball team’s annual Heritage Game at Reynolds Coliseum, and will be open to the public.
“This is such a deserved honor for the greatest basketball player to ever wear an NC State jersey,” NC State Director of Athletics Boo Corrigan said. “He is one of the most iconic players to ever play in the ACC and our hope is that this statue will ensure that generations of NC State students and fans will always remember the legacy and contributions of David Thompson.”
Thompson is widely recognized as one of the greatest players in college basketball history. A 2008 ESPN story ranked him as one of the ten best college basketball players of all-time, and he is regarded as one of greatest athletes in Atlantic Coast Conference history.
The Boiling Spring, N.C., native played three seasons at NC State from 1972-75 and was a unanimous first-team All-American at the conclusion of all three seasons. He was also named the ACC Player of the Year all three seasons.
He was named the Associated Press National Player of the Year in 1974 and 1975 and remains one of just five players in college basketball history to win multiple AP National Player of the Year honors.
Thompson immediately made his mark on the Pack, helping lead NC State to an undefeated season (27-0) in 1973. The Pack dominated the 1972-73 season and was at the top or near the top of the polls all season as Thompson averaged 24.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.
Thompson returned in the 1973-74 season and led the Wolfpack to a 30-1 record and the school’s first NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball National Title.
In the Final Four, Thompson and the Wolfpack met up with UCLA, the seven-time reigning National Champions and the only team to have defeated NC State that season. The Pack trailed 74-67 in the second overtime when Thompson’s heroics helped lead NC State back. Thompson pulled down a defensive rebound and made the go-ahead basket with under one minute remaining and then made two free throws with 38 seconds to go to give the Pack a 78-75 double overtime win in a game that is still considered one of the greatest Final Four games ever played.
Thompson finished the game with 28 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Bill Walton and the Bruins.
Two nights later, the Pack won the National Title over Marquette, 76-64, behind 21 points from Thompson. Thompson was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
To make it into the NCAA Tournament, the Pack defeated fourth-ranked Maryland, 103-100, in overtime in the 1974 ACC Championship, in a game that is routinely considered one of the best games in college basketball history.
As a senior, Thompson averaged 29.9 points, still the highest single season average in NC State history. He scored an NC State and ACC record 57 points in an early season win over Buffalo State. The Pack started the season ranked No. 1 in the nation and never fell out of the top-10, but lost in the ACC Championship game to end its season. The Pack finished the season ranked seventh in the nation but because the NCAA Tournament at that time only allowed the conference champion into the tournament its season was over.
Thompson closed his career with 2,309 points in 86 career games. He led the ACC in scoring all three seasons and was NC State and the ACC’s career scoring leader when he graduated.
Former NC State Basketball Player Torin Dorn Joins Coaching Staff of G-League SLC Stars
Former NC State basketball player Torin Dorn has joined the staff of the Salt Lake City Stars, the G-League team for the Utah Jazz. Dorn’s title is Player Development Associate/Assistant Coach.
After playing 3 seasons at NC State, Dorn went on to play professionally overseas in Poland and Czech Republic, before joining the Wolfpack coaching staff last season as a Graduate Manager.
Dorn will be working under newly appointed head coach Steve Wojciechowski (former Duke PG), who was the head coach at Marquette the past 7 seasons.
NC State Guard MJ Rice Will Be Returning Soon After Stepping Away for a Period of Time
NC State Guard MJ Rice (6’5″/215) announced yesterday that due to personal reasons, he had to step away from the basketball program, but was excited to be back with his teammates soon. He was clear that his commitment to NC State hasn’t wavered.
Life is much bigger than sports. These young men are human beings first and foremost, and as we all know, this life is never simple and easy.
Rice transferred to NC State this offseason from Kansas with three years of eligibility remaining. The former High School McDonald’s All-American didn’t get a lot of playing time in his Freshman season at Kansas, averaging 7.6 minutes per game in only 23 games played.
Coming out of Prolific Prep in California, Rice averaged 20.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as a Senior. Rivals ranked him as a 5-star prospect, ON3 ranked him 24th nationally, and ESPN ranked him as the #1 player in the state of North Carolina.
Whatever Rice is working through, we value him as a person more than we do a player.
NC State Announces Hiring of Larry Dixon as NC State Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach
RALEIGH – NC State men’s basketball head coach Kevin Keatts announced Wednesday that Larry Dixon has joined his staff as an assistant coach.
Dixon comes to NC State after spending the last five seasons as an assistant coach at South Florida.
The NCAA Division I Board of Directors voted in January to allow two more assistant coaches on men’s basketball staffs. Dixon, will serve as one of the Pack’s two new assistant coaches that can engage in coaching activities but may not recruit off campus.
“I think Larry is a great addition to our staff,” Keatts said. “He’s a North Carolina native that has dedicated himself to a coaching career since graduating from college. He started at the high school level in North Carolina and eventually moved up to college and now has been a Division I assistant coach for almost 20 years. I think his experience is going to be a great asset for me and our coaching staff, as well as the young men in our program as we develop them on and off the court.”
Larry Dixon joined the USF coaching staff as assistant coach on May 12, 2018.
In just his second season with the team in 2018-19, Dixon helped USF to the top win turnaround in the NCAA during the 2018-19 season, as the Bulls won 14 more games than the previous season. In addition, USF turned in a 24-14 overall record to set a new single-season school record for wins. The Bulls would go on to win the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) championship and claim the program’s first postseason title since 1990.
Dixon also played an instrumental role in the development of 2019 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year Laquincy Rideau and 2019 American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year Alexis Yetna.
Dixon helped USF become one of the top defensive teams in the NCAA during the 2019-20 season, finishing the year ranked 20th in scoring defense by allowing only 62.7 points per game. The Bulls limited eight teams to fewer than 60 points during the season and held 27 of their 31 opponents under their scoring average at the time of play. The Bulls also ranked 44th in the nation in turnovers forced with 15.6 per game, and stood 65th in the NCAA in steals with 7.5 thefts per game.
In 2021-22, Dixon helped develop Russel Tchewa and Corey Walker Jr. into one of the best frontcourt tandems in the league. The Bulls were again among the top defensive teams in the country, ranking 45th in the NCAA in scoring defense (64.9 ppg).
Dixon came to Tampa after five seasons as an assistant at Georgia Southern under head coach Mark Byington. Prior to his stint with the Eagles, Dixon had collegiate assistant coaching jobs at Winthrop (2007-12), East Carolina (2005-07), South Carolina State (2003-05) and St. Andrews College (2002-03).
In his final season at Georgia Southern, Dixon helped lead the Eagles to a 21-12 record, including an 11-7 mark in the Sun Belt. In 2016-17, he helped Georgia Southern reach the postseason for the first time since 2006, playing in the College Basketball Invitational.
Prior to arriving at Georgia Southern, Dixon spent the 2012-13 season as head coach at York Comprehensive High School in York, S.C.
During his five seasons (2007-12) on the coaching staff at Winthrop under head coach Randy Peele, Dixon was recognized as the top assistant coach in the Big South by Fox Sports.
Before entering the college game, Dixon served as the head coach at Garinger High School in Charlotte, N.C. for three seasons. In 2001, he led Garinger to a North Carolina High School sectional championship and earned Mecklenburg County Coach of the Year honors from the Charlotte Observer. Dixon also spent one season as an assistant at Carver High School in Winston-Salem, N.C. and one season at South Rowan High School in his hometown of Salisbury, N.C.
Dixon graduated from Johnson C. Smith University (Charlotte, N.C) in 1996, where he was a four-year letterman as a player. He was named the team’s most improved player following his junior season and the top defensive player after his senior season. He helped the Golden Bulls to a pair of CIAA Southern Division titles and a championship game appearance as a sophomore.
A native of Salisbury, N.C., Dixon has two children, Devin and Leah.