Three key factors in Wolfpack's road win
Posted January 8
Three talking points from N.C. State’s 77-70 win at Notre Dame on Tuesday.
1. Size matters: Although the rebounding was basically even – State led 39-37 – the Wolfpack’s big men were marginally dominant at times.
Other than Jordan Vandenberg (7-1, 265), State doesn’t come across as an unusually big team.
But that’s deceptive. With T.J. Warren (6-8), BeeJay Anya (6-9), Kyle Washington (6-9), Lennard Freeman (6-8) and 6-5 Ralston Turner on the wing, the Pack has a lot of arm length, which frequently snarled Notre Dame’s offensive flow.
“Their size around the basket just bothered us,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said during his post-game comments. “We did a little bit better in the second half, but (our) offensive rhythm was off. We needed to score more to escape them.”
By contrast, the Irish (10-5, 1-1 ACC) were able to use their size much more effectively in Saturday’s 79-77 win over Duke (12-3, 1-1) in South Bend.
Notre Dame had a 39-30 rebounding advantage in that game, and the smaller Blue Devil defenders couldn’t contain Garrick Sherman (6-11) and 6-5 winger Pat Connaughton on several important second-half possessions.
One game obviously doesn’t make a trend, but Tuesday’s play by his bigs should at least give head coach Mark Gottfried reason to be optimistic about Saturday’s game against smaller Virginia (10-4, 1-0) in the PNC Arena and next Wednesday’s trip to Wake Forest (11-3, 1-0).
2. Scheduling: Combine two of Tuesday’s ACC outcomes – State win, Notre Dame loss, Duke’s 79-57 win over Georgia Tech (9-6, 0-2) – and you get a example of why coaches fought the move to 18-game conference schedules and will resist even more to fend off suggestions of 20 and 22-game league slates.
“Give them a lot of credit coming in here coming in loose and working on us,” Brey said of the Pack.
“Loose” in this case is another word for desperate.
After a collapse against Pitt (14-1, 2-0) to start its ACC play last Saturday in Raleigh, Gottfried and the Pack would have faced an immediate full-blown crisis had they fallen to 0-2.
It may not sound like a huge increase, but cramming 18 conference games into basically the same time frame as the old 16-game set puts a lot of pressure on scouting and game planning.
Former Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg probably had a good point when he suggested that teams in the new mega-conferences should play two league games each before Christmas. The problem with that idea is the week or so required for semester final exams in early December.
3. Plan-Bs: The fact that State was able to pull off an upset on the road with Warren struggling to make shots is significant.
Of late, UNC (10-4, 0-1) entering Wednesday’s 9 p.m. game against Miami (8-6, 0-2) in Chapel Hill, has stumbled when opposing defenses were able to shut down Marcus Page.
By the same token, Duke’s loss at Notre Dame was marked by Jabari Parker’s first real offensive ordeal (7 points, 2-10 on field goals) of his college career. Parker missed 14 of 21 field-goal attempts in an earlier loss to Arizona.
Warren still led the offense with 17 points but Turner (12 points), Desmond Lee (12) and Cat Barber (16) made it possible for State to survive.
Developing offensive alternatives in January and February usually is a key to success in March.