Observations From The Game: Stanford

For the second straight game, NC State allowed a lead to slip away in the closing minutes, losing on the road to Stanford 76-72 on Sunday night.

NC State dropped its second-straight game on Sunday night despite leading by as much as 12 points in the second half. Here's a look at the highlights and lowlights of the Pack's missed opportunity.

HIGHLIGHTS

SHOT SELECTION
When the Pack wasn't busy fumbling the ball away, it did a great job of selecting shots on Sunday night. The Pack was aggressive inside and only looked for the 3-pointers when they were wide open – resulting in a 47% shooting night overall and a 41% night from behind the line. When things started to slip away, the shot selection suffered and the Pack closed the night by missing six of its last eight attempts. But overall it was the Pack's second-best shooting night of the season – behind only the Morehead State game – and shot selection was the main reason the Pack jumped out to an early lead and held on for most of the game.

LESLIE'S AGGRESSIVENESS
CJ Leslie has looked like an entirely different player early this season – a more polished, more aggressive performer who is using his athleticism and explosiveness to dominate his competition. Leslie was aggressive early in the game against Stanford, attacking the basket and using his length to get in the post and score. The result was a remarkably efficient offensive performance – scoring 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

He was also disruptive on the defensive end, challenging shots and getting three blocks in the first half. His aggressiveness did allow Stanford a few offensive rebounding opportunities but overall you would prefer a version of Leslie who is too aggressive than a version that is too passive. If Leslie continues playing this way he'll end up as one of the better players in the ACC by the end of the season.

LOWLIGHTS

LESLIE'S CRAMPS AND WOOD'S FOULS
The Pack was forced to play most of the second half without Leslie, who was the best player on the court over the first 20 minutes but cramped up in the second half. Leslie had to come out at the 16:35 mark after drawing a foul on a drive and would return at the two minutes later. He played just 30 seconds before coming back out – then came back in at the 11-minute mark only to come out for good a minute later.

Scott Wood's also missed the final five minutes of the game, but his problems were mental and not physical. Wood has become the king of picking up touch fouls and offensive fouls – a remarkable feat for a wing player. Wood had two offensive fouls on Sunday and it was the second one that hurt the most as he picked up his fifth on the play and had to come out of the game with the Pack leading by four. Wood has got to grow up and stop both picking up the dumb fouls and then complaining incessantly to the officials. Neither is helping him stay on the court.

DROUGHTS
For the first time all season the Pack ran into some real offensive slumps. The first came when the Pack had built up an early 18-7 lead over Stanford with 13 minutes remaining in the first half. From the 13-minute mark until the 5:28 mark in the half, the Pack scored just two points. Over that stretch they missed eight shots and turned it over three times while the Cardinals tied the game up. The Pack would recover with a 15-point explosion over the final five minutes to maintain the lead at halftime.

The second drought came when the Pack could least afford it – at the end of the game. A pair of Richard Howell free throws gave the Pack an eight-point cushion with 6:06 left in the game, but then the Pack went cold. Lorenzo Brown hit one free throw and that was the only points the Pack saw for the next five minutes – by the time they recovered the score was 71-64 and less than a minute remained in the game. Those two bad stretches ruined what was otherwise a good offensive performance.

PLAYER OF THE GAME
C.J. Leslie looked poised to take this award home with him in the first half, scoring 14 points in the first half and displaying a dominating post game. But with Leslie out of commission during most of the second half, the other C.J. managed to be a lone bright spot for the Pack. C.J. Williams scored 18 points, 12 of which came in the second half, and was one of the few steady forces as the Pack collapsed late in the game.

STAT OF THE GAME
The Pack turned the ball over 17 times on Sunday afternoon, an unusually sloppy game for a team that has been good about taking care of the ball this year. No single player shouldered the load as four of the five starters had three turnovers a piece.

Some credit goes to the Stanford defense – the Cardinal has turned over the opposition on one of every four possessions this year. But many of the Pack's turnovers were of the careless variety – lazy passes or something as simple as stepping over the line before inbounding the ball. In a game that came down to the final possession those lost possessions cost the Pack dearly.

QUOTABLE
"We lost our heads towards the end of the game. The calls got to some of the players on our team. We started pouting. You can't do that." -- Lorenzo Brown (courtesy of the News and Observer)

MOVING FORWARD
The Pack will only play one over the next two weeks as the NC State enters its exam period. The Pack will play NC Central next Sunday before hosting Syracuse on December 17th.


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