Taking Care of Business
The Pack will get no style points for its current three-game winning streak against the bottom three team in the ACC. But as Florida State showed on Wednesday night, any team can lose on the road if it has an off night. The Pack managed to avoid that fate, going 3-0 in that stretch without putting together a solid 40 minute game in any of the three wins. Thursday night they won by getting to the free throw line and by forcing the Jackets to shoot a paltry 32 percent from the field and six percent from behind the arc.
Those three wins put the Pack at 7-3 in league play, 18-7 overall and within striking distance of an NCAA tournament bid. It won't be easy – as the Pack probably needs to win four of its last six games and has the toughest part of its schedule remaining. But to even be in position to discuss an NCAA bid in mid-February is a step forward for this program, one that wouldn't be possible had the Pack no taken care of business during the easy part of its schedule.
Mark Gottfried, halfway through his first ACC campaign, is now 4-1 on the road in league play. By comparison, Sidney Lowe won just four road games in his final three seasons combined and finished 7-33 overall in conference road games for his career. Yes, the Pack has had a remarkably easy road schedule in the league so far – but it's still an impressive accomplishment for a rookie coach to come out and consistently win those games.
Before Thursday the Pack's worst defensive rebounding games of the season were as follows – Stanford, North Carolina, Syracuse and Indiana in that order. All four games were losses for the Pack, which should give you a hint to how important defensive rebounding has been to this team's success so far this season.
But Thursday they managed to put together an even worse performance than any of the previous four mentioned – letting the Yellow Jackets grab 47 percent of their own misses and giving up 16 second-chance points to the home team. The good news for the Pack is that they won in spite of it, and the team needs to go out next week and prove that this was nothing more than a fluke.
The Streak Ends
Scott Wood stepped to the line to complete a three-point play on Thursday night with 17 minutes left in the second half. He stepped to the line having made 66 consecutive free throws, the fourth-longest streak in NCAA history and 19 away from the record. He went through his usual routine but his shot rimmed out and just like that the streak was over. Wood went on to miss his next two attempts at the stripe as well, perhaps deciding to squeeze all of his misses on the season into a single game.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
CJ Williams carried NC State offensively in the first half, scoring 11 of the Pack's 26 points in the first 20 minutes. When seemingly nothing was going right for the Pack, Williams kept draining jumper after jumper to keep them close to the Yellow Jackets. Williams also helped put some distance between the Pack and the Jackets early in the second half with a four-point play – sinking a 3-poitner while getting fouled by Daniel Miller and then hitting the free throw.
But as good as Williams was on offense, it was his defense on the night that really proved valuable to the Pack. Williams spent most of the night matched up with Glen Rice Jr. and the Jackets' go-to scorer managed to get 15 points but he needed 16 shots to do it. In addition, after scoring seven points in the first six minutes of the game, Rice would score just eight more the rest of the way.
"It's interesting, at the beginning of the year people always asked what I thought this team could do. You don't really know... it's my first year. If you would have said 18 wins, maybe I would have said that's pretty good. I don't know. Now, the game changes. We're a little greedy. We're going to slug it out all the way to the end."