NC State entered the game No. 2 nationally in field goal percentage offense, and the Wolfpack continued its hot shooting. State shot a blistering 57.4% from the field, and for much of the game was over 60%.
What makes State such a good shooting team is they don't take bad shots, they don't rely on perimeter jumpers, they can get easy baskets in transition, and their big men are converting around the rim.
NC State is going to win a lot of games if the hot shooting continues, and Mark Gottfried believes his team can be even better.
"We shoot 57% tonight and I still think we can be a lot better offensively, a lot better," he said. "We can run our offense better, read our offense better. We just have a long ways to go there, but I do like the fact that right now our percentage is really high. That's helping us."
Brown Breaks Out
Junior point guard Lorenzo Brown has struggled some this season, particularly with his shot, as he was hitting just 37.5% of his shots coming into the game.
However, against Norfolk State he was very smart in terms of the types of shot he took, and because of it he had his best shooting game of the season, knocking down 7-of-8 shots, including the lone 3-pointer he attempted.
State needs him to be an efficient scorer, and the Pack coaches have to hope this was a breakout game for Brown.
"I like the fact that [Lorenzo] went 7-of-8 from the field," said Gottfried. "His shooting percentages haven't been that good, but he's a much better shooter than that.
"Good night for him, hopefully that gives him a little more confidence offensively. He needs to score for us. I don't want point guards who can't score at all. That doesn't help your team. He has to be able to distribute the ball, run the offense, and score."
NC State might have had a week off for exams, but the Pack didn't look like they were off at all on the defensive end. In fact, they looked improved... contesting shots, getting out in the passing lanes, and controlling dribble penetration.
Norfolk State hit just 32.8% of their shots, including just 3-of-16 from behind the arc. State finished the game with 12 steals and seven blocks... both season-highs for the Wolfpack.
"I think defensively we're getting a lot better," said Gottfried. "I still think we can improve, but I think we are starting to show signs of a team that can guard somebody here and there."
State did score 84 points, but they left plenty on the court mainly due to the 17 turnovers, two off the Pack's season-high.
Several of the turnovers were unforced... essentially plays that didn't need to be made, especially in transition.
If there is a silver lining for State it is that the 17 turnovers only yielded 10 points for the Spartans, but better teams will definitely cash in if given the same chances.
"I thought a couple of times in the break we were a little too cute," Gottfried said. "We just need to finish it, get baskets and make the right play. I thought we tried to get a little too fancy a few times."
Free Throw Shooting
It's been a problem for State all season and continued in the win. The Pack hit just 18-of-28 free throw attempts (64.3%), even though big man Richard Howell knocked in all six of his attempts.
C.J. Leslie really struggled, hitting just 3-of-8 and a couple weren't even close. Rodney Purvis, T.J. Warren, and Tyler Lewis all missed free throws for State.
Again, this is an area where State has to improve.
Player of the Game
Richard Howell, who finished with 12 points on 3-of-6 shooting (6-of-6 from the line) and also collected 19 rebounds on the night, was an easy choice.
He stuffed the stat sheet and was the Wolfpack's most complete player, also contributing five assists and five blocks on the night.
Howell's ability to clean the glass and ignite State's transition game is vital to their success.
Stat of the Game
The Pack had 21 assists on 31 made baskets and turned the ball over 19 times. The high number of assists demonstrates just how unselfish NC State played in the win. Players were making the extra pass and never seemed to take a bad shot.
Mark Gottfried on his team:
"I think we have unselfish players. I think we very rarely take a forced, selfish shot. I just don't see those very often."