Tyler Lewis' Emergence
With Lorenzo Brown sidelined with an ankle injury, the biggest question mark coming into the game was how the Pack offense would operate without its most important component.
Tyler Lewis provided the answer, demonstrating over the course of 36 minutes why he was tabbed a McDonald's All-American as a high-school senior. The freshman point guard scored 16 points, dished out five assists and turned the ball over just once – sparking both the crowd and his teammates. Lewis admitted after the game that it's been tough sitting on the bench, but said he understands that Brown is the ‘best point guard in the country' and that he has to earn his time.
"It was really fun." Lewis said. "I knew what I had to do out there. I had to prove to all the people that hadn't see me play this year because I hadn't been playing a lot of minutes. I think after this I proved a lot of people wrong."
It's easy to remember the one big miss of the game – Leslie failing to hit the front end of a one-and-one with 49 seconds left. But overall the Pack was very good from the line, hitting 18-of-21 (86 percent) from the charity stripe in the game. Lewis hit 8-of-9 from the line and Leslie was just as good, hitting 6-of-7.
For all the hand-wringing about free-throw shooting earlier in the season, the Pack now has the second-best free-throw shooting percentage of any team during league play, hitting 72 percent of its foul shots.
Miami was ice cold from 3-point range on the night, and the Pack rightly forced them outside as much as possible, where they hit just 3-of-21 (14 percent) from the floor. The problem was that they had no answer for anyone on the interior, as Miami shot 68 percent from inside the arc and scored 50 points in the paint. Reggie Johnson – maybe the only person in the league stronger than Richard Howell, and Julian Gamble – now in his sixth season at Miami - combined to shoot 12-of-18 from the floor and scored 31 points.
"They are so big and strong and thick, not a lot of teams have two or three bigs like they have, so somebody is always in a mismatch." Gottfried said. "We doubled it some, we used our zone some, we tried a lot of different things."
Not Closing Out
NC State has continually failed to put away opponents when it had the chance.
Time and time again, the Pack has allowed teams to hang around or come back on them and make games closer than they should have been – or in plenty of cases simply lost the game outright. It blew a 16-point first-half lead at Wake, it let a 28-point lead on Carolina get whittled down to five and on Saturday it blew a five-point lead with two minutes remaining – losing on a last-second tip-in for the second time in conference play.
"This one seemed to hurt more because it was a home game for us." Purvis said. "Don't get me wrong, every game is equal but I hate to lose at home in front of our fans."
Player of the Game
Tyler Lewis, who went from a liability to an asset in the blink of an eye for the Pack. It's clear now that the Pack can afford to rest Lorenzo Brown a little more every game to keep him fresh for the final minutes, as Lewis showed he's more than capable of running the Pack offense in Brown's absence.
Stat of the Game
Ten, the number of steals Miami had in the game. The Pack had only 12 turnovers, but 10 of them were live-ball steals (Shane Larkin had five by himself) – and two of those were in the final two minutes and probably cost the Pack the game. If there's one area where the Pack clearly missed having Lorenzo, it was in the amount of times the Canes were able to take the ball away – scoring 22 points off NC State turnovers compared to just eight points off turnovers for the Pack.
"At 68-62 there was a timeout and without Lorenzo our team could have accepted their fate but they chose not to. I really like that about our team. There's some competitive greatness in our guys to keep digging, which they did. I tell our team, if we keep playing hard like that, if we keep competing like that, good things will happen for our team."