The Wolfpack have won some close games already this season, while Appalachian has struggled to finish down the stretch. Some keys for the Mountaineers include:
- Get off to a quick start, after trailing at the first media timeout in three of the past four games. A stretch where, not coincidentally, App State is 1-3.
- App State has to stay on the offensive glass at the same pace that has them 31st nationally in offensive rebounds. State already trails in that category by 33 rebounds through nine games.
- Work to keep Dennis Smith Jr. out of the paint. The highly-acclaimed freshman shoots 46% inside the arc and 26% behind it. Hello, Kelvin Robinson.
- The Mountaineers have to force NC State to defend. Appalachian has been successful in getting to the free-throw line (25 times per game) and that opportunity will exist again in Raleigh.
NC STATE WOLFPACK
Dennis Smith Jr.: Smith has made his presence felt early on through sheer shooting volume, averaging 14 shots per game. His attacking mentality has also put him on the free-throw line 7-8 times a game, as well. State is putting the ball in his hands, spreading the floor, and letting him run the show. App State has to do what they can to force the ball from his hands.
Terry Henderson: The fifth-year senior brings the steady hand especially at the three-point line. Henderson is averaging 17 points per game and shooting 38% from the arc. With Smith driving to the basket relentlessly Henderson works his way around the three-point line awaiting the kick out. So far, he’s been able to convert those looks.
Torin Dorn: The last time App State faced Dorn he was in a different uniform. He hit Appalachian for 14 points while playing at Charlotte as a freshman before transferring to State. Dorn is a physical driver who shoots a very high percentage from the floor. Dorn is also the defender most likely to draw defensive duty against Ronshad Shabazz.
Abdul-Malik Abu: Physical big man (240 lb.) is scoring 11.9 points per game and pulling down 7.1 rebounds. He’s a tough match-up for Appalachian simply because of his strength and size. Mountaineer big men will have to work hard to maintain good defensive position and discourage easy entry passes into the paint.
BeeJay Anya: If Abu is big then Anya is biggest, 6’9” and 344 lbs. kind of biggest. Anya averages just under 16 minutes per game and struggles to stay on the floor in State’s preferred up-tempo system. He’ll also struggle to stay in front of mobile Mountaineer post players like Tyrell and Isaac Johnson.
Markell Johnson: Freshman back-up guard, who allows Smith to work off the ball some, is very quick and savvy for a rookie. He features a 2.3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio and is second on the team in steals. With State’s three starting guards logging so many minutes Johnson can come in for any of them in spot duty, which adds up to nearly 25 per game for him.
Omer Yurtseven: Seven-footer who had to sit out nine games due to an NCAA ruling will make his debut against Appalachian. A skilled European-style post player, Yurtseven may earn Mountaineer big man Jake Wilson increased minutes. It will be interesting to see how Yurtseven’s presence down low influences State’s penetrating guard lineup.
APP STATE MOUNTAINEERS
Ronshad Shabazz: A homecoming for the Raleigh native, Shabazz looked much more his old self in the Montreat blowout, but will it carry over at State? It needs to as Appalachian requires his explosive scoring to offset the firepower of the Wolfpack back court. Getting off to a quick start is always good for Shabazz and he may have his opportunities off the dribble.
Kelvin Robinson: Robinson gets primary duty against State’s Smith in a freshman match-up. Robinson is also very good at penetrating into the paint and Mountaineer spot-up shooters can benefit from him driving and kicking the ball out. His ability to get back to the free-throw line at the rate he did early in the season would be a big benefit.
Griffin Kinney: The Wolfpack big men really are BIG men. They won’t out-athlete Kinney but they can out-position him, as they have superior size. Staying on the right side of the man and the ball will be important as Kinney can contribute to the rebounding effort as much by sealing his man off as actually grabbing the rebounds himself.
Tyrell Johnson: This is an opportunity game for Tyrell, as State’s bigs will have trouble containing his mobility. The ability to force their post players to defend, and possibly foul, a more mobile player is important for App State. Johnson has not hesitated to attack the rim so far and that has to continue against State.
Emarius Logan: Appalachian will need to have a great game from three to stay in the mix and Logan is a guy who can be a difference-maker. His ability to find open space and work off Shabazz and Robinson will be critical. What he can’t do is hesitate. With State’s longer backcourt players the close-outs will come quickly, so Logan has to squeeze it when he gets a look.
Isaac Johnson: As with Tyrell, Isaac will also create match-up problems for State’s less mobile defenders. He has proven to not only be App’s most successful driving threat but is finishing with greater consistency, either at the rim or the free-throw line. Isaac has yet to shy away from any competition and won’t in Raleigh, either.
Jake Babic/Pat Good: Tough match-up for both Babic and Good, given the size and athleticism of State’s primary backcourt. Both struggled to keep Charlotte’s guards in front of them in that game and State’s guys are better. But, both babic and Good have been effective in stretching defenses from the arc and creating for others.
Jake Wilson/Matt O’Boyle/Craig Hinton/Bennett Holley: All four will have an opportunity to impact this game. Again, at some point Head Coach Jim Fox will start tightening the rotation, so these guys are auditioning for the minutes. Look for App to put shooters on the floor as much as possible and Wilson’s size will be needed at the rim.
The key to this game is App State’s ability to slow the pace and force State to run their offense, instead of just running to the rim. Watch for the Mountaineers to drop into their 1-2-2 zone look more often, with Tyrell, Isaac, and possibly Hinton manning the tip of that zone.
Switching defenses to force a young State guard rotation to recognize and adjust can help contain the tempo.
Appalachian has to be all over the boards, where State has struggled to date. If they can create some extra possessions AND convert them, which has been a struggle of late, then it can make a difference.
And, the Mountaineers simply have to shoot it well, especially from three. This is a team that’s shown the ability to knock down jumpers, so identifying where the shooters are and making that extra pass is a must-have.
State has not proven to be a great defensive team but App State has to force them to defend. Be aggressive off the dribble, take open shots when they’re available, and just play.
NC STATE 86 – APP STATE 72