Ryan Craig

Wolfpack has ups and downs in exhibition win

Posted November 6, 2009
Updated November 10, 2009

As with any exhibition college basketball game, it’s imperative that you look beyond the final score when examining a team’s performance.

N.C. State beat up on an over-matched St. Paul’s squad Thursday night in Reynolds Coliseum, 84-42, in a showing that answered some questions but raised several more.

For starters, it’s obvious Tracy Smith is the cornerstone of the Pack’s offense and rightfully so. Smith finished the night with a game-high 21 points on 9-11 shooting, and seemingly scored at will on a variety of moves in the paint.

The junior forward had a tremendous size advantage over the defenders he was posting up, but his effort wasn’t a case of beating up under-sized competition – his solid footwork and vast array of moves in the low block make him a scoring force that will be hard for nearly everyone in the ACC to contend with.

Sporting a drop step, baby hooks over both shoulders, an up-and-under move and an ability to take contact and finish plays, Smith proved Thursday night that he should touch the ball at least once on nearly every offensive possession State has this upcoming season.

“Everybody saw that I had a mismatch just about every time,” Smith said. “I took advantage of that.”

Coach Sidney Lowe has preached about wanting to run his offense from the paint to the perimeter. Last night the Wolfpack obliged, and Smith did a nice job finishing.

“What was impressive was how his teammates continued to throw it in there,” Lowe said. “That’s what’s so great about this team – they knew that Tracy had a situation in there, and they continued to throw it in there. No one deviated from the plan – we wanted to play inside out – and that’s what they did.”

In addition to wanting to work the ball into the post more often, Lowe has also spoken all offseason about his desire to see his team run more in order to create more easy baskets in transition, ala the 2009 national champions, North Carolina.

In this area, however, the Pack struggled.

In grabbing only nine steals (compared to 10 for St. Paul’s), State failed to create much pace, even against a vastly out-manned team.

Were there transition baskets? Yes.

But, State’s inability to turn over the Tigers with any regularity, or keep them off the offensive glass – the visitors grabbed 19 offensive boards – prevented it from dictating the kind of pace you would expect from a high-major team that counts running as a priority.

One thing State fans should expect this year is to see Scott Wood shoot threes, and shoot them well.

Wood, a 6-foot-7 freshman, has a lights-out stroke that is as pure as any you will ever see out of a guy that tall.

Given an opportunity to start last night, the lanky small forward showed the more than 5,000 people in Reynolds something they hadn’t seen in a Wolfpack uniform in quite a while – a serious long-range threat.

Four three-point shots, four makes – that kind of percentage will earn you the adoration of the Pack faithful, and, more importantly, give State the kind of offensive balance it has sorely missed for years.

If you want to work your offense from the inside out, you better have shooters on the perimeter the defense has to respect. If opponents have no fear of being burned by wide-open three-point looks, as the case has been with N.C. State recently, they don’t have to think twice about double-teaming Smith in the post.

The good news for State fans is that Wood has the chance to single-handedly change the opposing team’s defensive mentality when he’s in the game – he’s that good of a marksman.

“It was impressive for him to come out in his first game in front of a crowd and shoot the way he did,” Lowe said after the game. “I’ve been telling you guys, he’s been doing that all along in practice.”

But Wood wasn’t the only new face to contribute.

Athletic freshman forward DeShawn Painter showed promise on his way to finishing with eight points, while Jordan Vandenberg proved his seven-foot frame could provide a presence on both ends of the floor while tallying six points, five rebounds and several altered shots on defense.

For every Vandenberg block or Painter put-back, however, there was a Dennis Horner missed three-pointer - for every glimpse of future potential, a stark reminder of the present.

As good as it is for State fans to see some of their young players contribute it won’t mean much if the experienced guys don’t play well.

Horner’s 2-10 shooting night (0-6 from beyond the arc), State’s barely better than 1:1 assist to turnover ratio, and a combined six made field goals from Javi Gonzalez, C. J. Williams and Farnold Degand is troubling, especially considering the level of competition.

During a 42-point win Thursday night against St. Paul’s, State looked like a young team with freshmen that can contribute, giving the program a slightly higher ceiling than most might have expected heading into the year.

In looking beyond the final score, however, you realize that the Pack needs to get more out of its experienced players if it is going to reach that potential.


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  • Kattails Nov 24, 2009

    I just wanna know where the heck St. Pauls College is.....

  • telecaster Nov 8, 2009

    Nice to see some fresh faces and attitudes. Don't look to hard and exhibition stats. They are just not that valid. Most of those turnovers came from people who will never see the court in a real game.
    Horner needs to step up or sit down. It is nice to not see pouting and selfishess....we will see how that counts in ACC play.

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