NC State's focus centers on one
Posted March 21, 2013
Updated March 22, 2013
Dayton, Ohio — In a game of five-on-five, North Carolina State will be concerned with stopping one when they open up NCAA tournament play Friday against Temple (1:40 p.m. TBS / 99.9 FM The Fan).
The Owls have one player that started all 32 games this season. He leads the team in field goals made and attempted, three-pointers made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, points, assists and is second in steals. For those unfamiliar with Temple (23-9, 11-5 Atlantic 10), the Owls rise and fall on the play of senior guard Khalif Wyatt goes – and he also happens to wear No. 1.
“I think we know that they have a very good guard that we have to be aware of,” said NC State forward Calvin Leslie. “We know he likes to get it and go, and he's capable of making big time plays. We have to be aware of him at all times on the court.”
Wyatt averages 19.8 points per game to lead the A-10 and has led the team in scoring in 20 of 32 games. He has five 30-plus point games this year and has scored in double figures in 18 consecutive contests. Tasked to stop Wyatt will be Lorenzo Brown who has 65 steals and 19 blocked shots in 32 games (one every 13 minutes of court time).
“He's one of the craftiest guys I've seen this year,” Brown said. “My main goal when guarding him is to keep him out of the paint. I know he can shoot pretty well, but once he gets in the paint, he can draw a foul or dish the ball to any of his players, and they're pretty good shooters. If I can do that, it would help our team out.”
NC State (24-10, 11-7 ACC) head coach Mark Gottfried offered a vote of confidence for the 6-foot-5 guard and painted a resume-building response when asked about the matchup.
“He's had to guard some really good guards this year,” Gottfried noted. “We've played Marcus Smart at Oklahoma State and Trey Burke and Erick Green in our league and Shane Larkin. The list goes on and on of some awfully talented guards, and he's done a pretty good job against most of them. Obviously, he's got to do that again.”
In five games against the elite guards mentioned by Gottfried, Brown allowed more than 20 points to his counterpart just twice and did not foul out against any of them.
“He's athletic. He's tall. He has good size for his position,” Wyatt said of Brown. “I mean, he's a really good defender. Just going to have to take on the challenger and just be ready for whatever NC State has in order for us.”
Wyatt is one of five seniors on a Temple team that has made the NCAA tournament six consecutive seasons, but what they feature in experience, they lack in size. Their tallest starter, Anthony Lee, is 6-foot-9, and they only have just one other player that garners legitimate minutes over 6-foot-6.
“I think it's real big for us to take advantage of that,” said NC State forward Richard Howell “They definitely lack in size, and that's something we want to use to our advantage.”
Lee has been dealing with a hip-pointer injury that has limited him of late, but Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said that he has been practicing and is fully expected to play Friday. Lee leads the team with seven rebounds per game and is third on the team in scoring.
With the scripts reversed, Dunphy said that he cannot simply key in on one player for the Wolfpack.
“The concern is how good they are top to bottom,” said Dunphy. “There is no one specific guy we can concentrate on, and that’s what makes them so dangerous.”
NC State is the only team in the nation with five players averaging better than 12 points per game and they rank fourth in the nation in field goal percentage. The problem as Gottfried sees it, though, is getting everybody on the same high at the same time.
“I don't know that we've had a lot of moments this year where all four (Brown, Leslie, Howell and Scott Wood) of those guys have been great together at the same times,” Gottfried said. “For us to be good, it has to happen. There's enough of them that we've been able to survive if somebody's been in a little bit of a funk and up and down. Hopefully, right now, we can get all those guys playing at a high level here in the tournament.”
NC State is coming off a trip to the Sweet 16 a season ago, has won at least one tournament game in seven of their last eight trips and leads the all-time series against Temple 6-1. The Owls have won just one tournament game in the last six seasons (1-6).
“The fact that people are picking NC State is not a surprise to me,” Wyatt said. “It’s just more motivation for us.”