Mark Thomas

Wolfpack play the way they should

Posted December 5, 2012

It just felt right. NC State playing in The Jimmy V Classic in Madison Square Garden.

This March will be 20 years ago that the game’s namesake Jim Valvano stood in Madison Square Garden and inspired so many with his famous ESPY speech. It just felt right, though, for different reasons.

If State was to play in the special game against Connecticut and not play the way that they were supposed to, it would have been wrong. The special jerseys with the iconic net around the neck and the words “Don’t Ever Give Up” on the back added something to the night.

Head coach Mark Gottfried continued to embrace the tradition that Valvano brought to State basketball by having the team spend time with his family before and after the game. Gottfried has made a point of having former players get involved in so many ways with the current team. Gottfried wants his guys to know that NC State is a school where championship banners hang by putting them up in the Dail Practice Facility.

Understand, making the decision to play for the Wolfpack requires you to play a certain way. It’s playing the type of way where the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the one on the back. And that’s not to say that this year’s team can’t or won’t play that way. It’s that they haven’t. Well last night against UConn, they did.

Richard Howell and CJ Leslie combined for 29 points and 23 rebounds against UConn Tuesday night, leading the Pack to a 69-65 win. While the numbers are impressive, it’s the type of basketball that Mark Gottfried has been asking his players to give him all season long.

After Howell was held out of most of the first half with a stinger to his neck, he played an inspired second half that helped the Wolfpack dominate the boards. After being out-rebounded in the first half, NC State won the battle of the boards in the second half by seven, and had five more offensive boards. 

Effort plays were won by the Pack as well, and according to Mark Gottfried, the Wolfpack, "played much better defense in the second half." 

If there's one thing that Gottfried understands about his team is that they're talented, but not talented enough to just roll out the basketballs and win. NC State has to play with more energy than whoever is on the other side of the scoreboard. And when they do, they get out and run (fast break points State 17; UConn 9). 

Lorenzo Brown (16 points, 5 assists) played better, although his six turnovers need some work. Brown is doing a much better job of pushing the basketball up the floor and attacking the basket when he gets his opportunities. Scott Wood, amid foul trouble, got his "normal" 13 points. He hits three 3-pointers and knocked down all four of his foul shots. 

All that being said, NC State looked more like the team that many believed to be the best team in the ACC. They looked like an inspired team. I think Coach V would approve!

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  • tedfarr Dec 6, 2012

    I really like that you point out Gottfried's linking State's basketball past and present. I graduated in 1990, Valvano's last year as coach. I remember well the controversies surrounding the program in the final couple of years, but the way the university turned its back on Jimmy V...even after his death...was sad at best. It's sad it has taken this long to play in the Classic. I had many criticisms of Herb Sendek, but the biggest was his absolute disavowal of Wolfpack history. With arguably the greatest player in college history, why wouldn't he utilize DT and Tommy Burleson who I've seen at games for many years??

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