Observations From the Game: UNC
After a dominant first half, NC State made just enough plays down the stretch to hold off North Carolina Saturday, earning an 91-83 victory and snapping a 13-game losing streak to the Tar Heels. Let's take a look back at the highlights and lowlights from the Wolfpack win. HIGHLIGHTS Transition Game Mark Gottfried hasn't been shy about his desire to run up and down the floor since he got to Raleigh, and Saturday's fast break offense by the Wolfpack would probably be the perfect example of what he's been looking for. NC State was especially dominant in the first half, running up a 20-0 edge in fast break points to help turn a 22-18 lead with 7:10 left into a 45-26 halftime lead. For the game, the Wolfpack owned a 39-19 advantage in the break, repeatedly beating the Heels down the court for easy layups and dunks that kept the crowd into the game. During the most impressive stretch, which came in a five-minute span late in the first half, NC State scored fast break buckets on five of seven possessions to turn a 12-point lead into a 23-point game that felt – at least at the time – like a route. "Our message at halftime was that I didn't want our players to become passive," Gottfried said. "We wanted to attack and run and run and run." Dominating The Glass A big reason for State's success was their ability to, for much of the game, keep North Carolina off the offensive glass. At halftime the Wolfpack had a commanding 27-16 advantage on the board, with more defensive rebounds (18) than UNC had total rebounds (16). The work on the glass fueled State's transition game and led to much of their offense. The Wolfpack finished with a +10 advantage on the boards (42-32) as starting big men Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie combined for 24 rebounds. If State boards like they did against UNC, they will be tough to beat. Free Throw Shooting It won't be the most talked about statistical category in the coming days, but NC State's solid effort from the line ended up being the difference late, helping keep the Heels at arm's length in the final two minutes. The Pack finished 20-of-23 from the foul line, and four players shot 100 percent. Scott Wood (3-of-3) and Lorenzo Brown (6-of-6) made six freebies in the final 28 seconds, keeping the Heels from ever making it a one-possession game. Coincidentally, the 20-of-23 effort was identical to how the Pack shot two weeks ago in their win over Duke. In the two losses in between, NC State combined to finish 21-of-37 from the stripe. Closing The Deal (Sort of) North Carolina's ability to slash State's 28-point lead to as little as five is troubling, no doubt, but looking back at the second half play-by-play, there were several key moments that helped push State over the edge. Up 70-61 with 5:21, NC State ripped off a 10-2 run that included a layups by T.J. Warren and C.J. Leslie and a four-point play by Scott Wood to push the lead back to 17 at 80-63. That spurt got the crowd back into the game and helped the Pack survive a barrage of late three-pointers that eventually closed State's lead to 85-80. The other moment crucial shot went down at 1:42 when Scott Wood hit a three-pointer to push State's lead to 85-71 and set up a situation where North Carolina was forced to foul. LOWLIGHTS Not Closing The Deal While NC State deserves all the praise in the world for how it started the game, there is no way to get around how the Pack played – on the defensive end – in the second half. North Carolina scored 57 points in the final 20 minutes, with 50 coming in the final 13:22 as the Tar Heels quickly chipped away at a 28-point deficit. T.J. Warren and Richard Howell pointed to fatigue, saying the frantic first half hurt the Pack on the defensive end in the last 15 minutes. Whatever the reason, there is no excuse for giving up 50 points in that amount of time. PLAYER OF THE GAME Easy choice here. Lorenzo Brown was dominant in every aspect Saturday, taking advantage of numerous mismatches in the backcourt on his way to 20 points, 11 assists and only 5 turnovers in 36 minutes. He was 6-of-6 from the line, 6-of-14 from the field and also grabbed 3 rebounds, two steals and a block. The double-double was the second in a row and fourth in the last seven games for Brown, who is averaging 12.8 points and 6.9 assists on the season. STAT OF THE GAME Again, not a tough decision. The fast break offense in the first half ignited the team and crowd, giving the Pack a lead big enough to sustain North Carolina's second-half explosion. In the end, nearly 43 percent of NC State's scoring came in transition. QUOTABLE Scott Wood on how satisfying it was to finally beat North Carolina: "It feels good. It feels good. It's not like I just hooked up with Heidi Klum."