Talking points: NC State in a solid stretch of basketball
Posted December 19, 2012
1. NC State's hot hand in the first half belonged to Scott Wood, who hit five 3-pointers that pushed the Wolfpack in front of Stanford in an otherwise tight start. Mark Gottfried took advantage of the Cardinal's insistence on keeping Aaron Bright on Wood by running set plays. Wood got open looks, which he promptly buried.
Nice to see, considering Wood had been 2-of-10 shooting in the last two wins for the Wolfpack.
Wood also provided a defensive spark for the Wolfpack thanks to a couple blocks and outright hustle plays. Stanford eventually adjusted in the second half and the senior picked up two more points at the free throw line to finish the game with 17.
2. While Wood cooled off, Lorenzo Brown overcame a rough start and took over after halftime. The Wolfpack eventually took control of the game when the point guard attacked the basket, dished out assists and scored 18 of his game-high 24 points in the second half.
"Everybody has rough starts," Brown said. "Michael Jordan even had a rough start."
Fair enough, Zo. The second half was a reminder of why so many believed he was the best point guard in the ACC and the main driving force behind NC State's success this season. Since the Pack's loss against Michigan, Brown has averaged 16.5 points and 5.75 assists per game.
3. Richard Howell continues to provide simple, honest work for NC State and has quietly become the team's most consistent player in the first two months of the season. He recorded his fifth double-double in the last six games with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
The key going forward as the Wolfpack approach conference play is for Howell to stay on the court. While he deserves credit for staying out of foul trouble in comparison to last season, it's not a coincidence that the ugliest games of the season for NC State have come when he fouled out against Oklahoma State and Michigan.
4. NC State had fits and spurts of defense against Stanford. They made Dwight Powell work for his stats, with his 23 points coming on 10-of-21 shooting. On the flip side, Bright ended the night 6-of-9 from the field after coming into the contest hitting only six of his last 32 shot attempts. NC State also struggled on the defensive glass in the first half.
5. The Wolfpack appear to be finding consistency after a rough stretch against Oklahoma State, UNC-Asheville and Michigan. In notching quality wins against UConn and Stanford, NC State has shown a progression from last season in its ability to quickly get itself out of lulls in the action.
It all comes down to how you want to look at this squad. If you believed NC State was truly a top-10 team at the start of the season, it'll be easy to nitpick aspects of its season thus far. If you were in "wait and see" mode with the Wolfpack, they should be playing to their expected level -- a top-25 group with decent wins and opportunity to pad their RPI before the calendar year closes.
"Our goal is to be the best we can be come February and March," Gottfried said. "That's always the goal, to get to be a good team at the end of the year."