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OUR TAKE: On NC State’s impressive 84-64 win over Abilene Christian

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A few years ago, no one would have batted an eye at Abilene Christian coming to Raleigh to take on the Wolfpack in an early-season duel.

But anyone paying attention recently knew that the Abilene Christian matchup could be dangerous.

The Wildcats had made national news in 2021 when, as a #14 seed, they upset #3 Texas in the NCAA Tournament. And just this past week they upset Oklahoma State on their home court, 64-59.

None of that mattered to NC State, who handled their business on Friday night 84-64.

Here is our take:

As I said last time, NC State’s defense is going to be the best we’ve seen under Keatts. Jayden Taylor is an absolute ball hawk, DJ Horne is feisty, Morsell is and elite and physical defender, and you have a 6’10, long and agile guy at the 4 in Diarra. Abilene Christian struggled to get anything going offensively. They shot just 35% and 29% from 3 and not a single player reached double figures for them.

Jayden Taylor is really good. I guess I’ll continue hyping up Taylor. He deserves it. The kid is not just our best on-ball defender, he’s also very athletic, very slippery, and has a great shot. When he gets in his comfort zone, State fans are going to love him. Last night he was extremely aggressive and Abeline Christian had no answer. He was just too quick, too shifty and got to the basket at will in the first half (drawing fouls most of the time. But in the 2nd half, he found his stroke and started dropping 3s. Taylor finished with a game-high 22 points on 5-12 shooting and 3-4 from long range. On paper you’re going to wonder why I’m so excited about a 5-12 shooting performance, but watch the game and you’ll see. All of his misses were early in the game, and most were chip shots he won’t miss on a normal basis. He took good, smart shots, attacked the hoop with aggression, and played a real nice style of basketball. If he’s going to be this team’s top scorer, then fans are going to love his style. Very team-oriented, hard worker, but still gets buckets when needed.

Diarra almost had a quiet double-double. I re-watched the game to see how I missed Diarra’s 9 points and 11 rebounds, and when I finished watching the 2nd time, I realized why. It wasn’t flashy, he didn’t score in spurts, he didn’t even take a 3. He just played his role and let his 6’10 frame do it’s work. It will be interesting to see how Diarra fares against bigger teams and if this type of performance is something he can continue to replicate, but as of now, he’s really filling that 4 spot better than anyone Keatts has had. He’s rebounding at a double-digit rate, and he’s providing a shot-blocking presence in the paint.

Nice, efficient game from DJ Horne. I guess I was worried when we got Horne that he would play like Joiner or Smith. Not that I had anything against those guys. They were awesome. But, I know that if NC State is ever going to go anywhere, they need to learn to play team basketball and get away from this 1 on 1, isolation stuff we’ve seen during the Keatts era. Horne has been a pleasant surprise, because, while he can create off the dribble, he’s definitely a guy who plays within the offense and looks to pass when nothing is there. That’s the takeaway with Horne, for me. He had a really efficient 15 points on 6-11 shooting and 2-5 from 3. And that is great, but we know this guys is going to be a high-end scorer. What we didn’t know is how well he’d fit within the team framework, and we’re finding out that he’s going to fit just right.

Morsell bounced back with 16 points. Casey still hasn’t found his shot (he was 1-4 from 3pt range), but it’ll come. He’s a little excited, the shot is a little flat, and I’m sure that’ll be corrected as we get a few more games under our belt. He’s continued to be a physical presence, a great defender, and he’s been attacking more off the dribble, which, with his frame, puts a lot of pressure on the defense.

DJ Burns did his thing again. I could just copy and paste my Burns take every game. He’s one of the best offensive bigs in the nation. He’s definitely a Top 1 or 2 guy in the ACC, and he showed it again. State didn’t need him to dominate, as Abeline Christian kept sending double-teams to stop him. It didn’t matter, he still had 12 points, 7 boards and 4 assists.

Quiet night from the bench. O’Connell wasn’t as effective against the smaller, faster Abeline Christian guards as we mentioned might happen after the Citadel game. Middlebrooks played pretty well, adding 5 points and 4 boards in 15 minutes. And Dennis Parker Jr. never really got going, playing 14 minutes but only scoring 1 point and grabbing 2 boards. Parker is going to be a factor, but he’s still feeling out his role on this team, which is expected for a freshman.

– State moves to 2-0, gets a week off, and comes back next Friday against Charleston Southern.

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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NC State Basketball

NC State & Kansas Will Play a Home-and-Home Series Over the Next 2 Seasons in Men’s Basketball

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According to Matt Norlander, NC State and Kansas have agreed to play in a home-and-home series over the next two seasons in Men’s Basketball.

The Wolfpack have played the Jayhawks 13 times in a series that date backs to 1958-59, with Kansas winning 12 of them. NC State’s lone victory over Kansas was in the first game ever played between the two on December 20th, 1958. The 4th ranked Wolfpack won 66-63 in the Dixie Classic in Reynolds Coliseum.

The last time the two teams faced one another was in 2022-23, when the #3 Jayhawks defeated the Wolfpack 80-74 in the Battle for Atlantis on November 23, 2022.

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NC State Basketball

NC State is Adding UMASS’ Brett Nelson as an Assistant Coach

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According to reports, NC State is adding UMASS’ Brett Nelson as an Assistant Coach.

Nelson was only at UMASS for 1 season under Frank Martin. Prior to that, Nelson was the Head Coach at Holy Cross for 4 seasons, posting a 27-84 record.

Prior to taking the Head Coaching mantle at Holy Cross, Nelson was at Marquette for 5 seasons, spending the first 3 as an Assistant Coach, and the final two as an Associate Head Coach. Prior to Marquette, Nelson also served as an Assistant Coach at Ball St., Drake, Arkansas and Marshall.

Before coaching basketball, Nelson played for the University of Florida from 1999-2003. He was All-SEC twice, and earned Third Team All-American honors. When he left Gainesville, he was the Gators’ all-time leader in three pointers made, and ranked 2nd in steals.

As a Senior in High School, Nelson was a McDonald’s All-American.

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NC State Basketball

Ernest Ross Announces He is Returning to NC State

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Power Forward Ernest Ross announced this morning that he is returning to NC State for his final year of eligibility.

 

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Last Friday, Ross committed to UTSA after entering the Transfer Portal on April 17th, but it looks like he had a change of heart over the past couple of days.

NC State has been in desperate need to add a Big out of the Portal. They have hosted ECU’s Ezra Ausar and Georgia’s Frank Anselem-Ibe, but neither of them have found a home yet. With the addition of Ross, NC State has added depth in the Frontcourt, and unless something changes, their roster is full with 13 scholarship players.

Ross played in 14 games this past season, averaging 3.4 minutes per contest. After playing in 34 games last season, averaging 11.4 minutes per contest, Ross saw his participation dip to a career low this season, but that didn’t for a second break his infectious personality. On the sideline, you could count on Ross every single game to be the heart and soul of the Wolfpack on the bench. To watch a player who played as little as he did, care as much as he did, makes me super proud that this young man represented NC State so well.

Ross was a consensus 4-star player in NC State’s 2021 recruiting class, with 247Sports ranking him as the #60 overall player nationally. ESPN ranked him as the #5 overall player in the state of Florida.

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NC State Basketball

A Matchup Between NC State & Marquette Next Season Might be in the Works

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According to NCAA.com’s Andy Katz, a matchup between NC State and Marquette next season might be in the works.

This past year, the Wolfpack defeated the Golden Eagles 67-58 in the Sweet 16 of the 2024 NCAA Tournament.

NC State and Marquette have played one another 6 times overall, with the Wolfpack holding a 4-2 lead in the series, winning the past two matchups.

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