Getting Scott Wood the Ball in the Final Minute
Say what you will about Mark Gottfried's coaching in the second half, but he has to get credit for getting his best foul shooter on the line in the closing seconds.
Twice the Pack knew that NC Central would be fouling, and twice Gottfried drew up plays that got the ball to Wood. The junior rewarded Gottfried's faith by making all four free throws and averting what could have been a complete disaster situation for the Wolfpack against lowly Central.
The game could have been a lot closer throughout if the Pack hadn't rebounded as efficiently as they did – especially on the offensive end. The Pack finished with 16 offensive rebounds on 34 missed shots, meaning that nearly half of their misses ended with the Pack retaining possession. The defensive rebounding was not as good – the Pack gave up 11 offensive rebounds on 34 makes. But overall, the Pack's rebounding helped them jump out to a quick lead and maintain that lead for the entire 40 minutes.
Attacking The Zone
The same team that carved up Morehead State's zone for 91 points really struggled against the Central's zone on Sunday night. For inexplicable reasons, the Pack became extremely passive against the zone – especially late in the second half.
They settled for jumpers and never were able to get the ball inside consistently to its big men. The Pack shot just 27 percent in the second half, one of the multitude of reasons that Central was able to cut it down to a one-possession game in the final minute.
If NC Central's zone gave the Pack problems, Syracuse's zone is going to be a nightmare for the Pack next week. Gottfried, by his own admission, will have to get his team a lot better against the zone or his team will get blown out by the Orange.
Another Late-Game Collapse
This is the third consecutive game where the Pack has played its worst in the final five minutes, a disturbing trend for a team that has otherwise played good basketball in the last few weeks.
The Pack actually started the downward spiral a little early against Central, going ahead 56-41 before allowing the visiting team to storm back.
Central cut the lead to five with five minutes to play and got it as close as three points with 1:45 left. The Pack managed, from the 9:57 mark to the 0:35 mark, to score just three points. It's a minor miracle that they still held a three-point lead with under a minute left, and they did manage to finish the game by going 6-of-6 from the free throw line to hold on.
Leslie And Brown
C.J. Leslie picked up his second foul of the game two minutes into the first half. As a result, he played just two minutes in the first half. While the Pack still led by 10 at the break, the Pack might have been able to pad the score even more with Leslie in the game. Playing time wasn't the issue in the second half, but Leslie was still quiet – just there shot attempts in 21 total minutes.
Brown wasn't as passive as Leslie, but he wasn't able to attack the basket and get the sort of shots that make him dangerous. Instead he seemed to settle for long jumpers all night, finished 0-for-7 from the field and scored just one point. Ultimately, the Pack's best two players need to be more assertive and involved on the offensive end – and score more than a combined four points.
Player Of The Game
C.J. Williams gets the nod for his career-high 21 points and overall aggressiveness on the offensive end. He was one of the few guys who was consistently attacking. Even with his outside shot not working (he went just 1-of-7 from behind the arc), Williams was able to get to the line and sink eight-of-nine free throws. In addition to the scoring, Williams added five rebounds and three steals.
Gottfried on the late collapse:
"We became real tentative late in the game and I don't think you can play the game that way. You have to keep attacking and you have to keep doing things in an attack mode. We got away from that."