Observations From The Game: Virginia Tech

NC State got a scare on Saturday afternoon from visiting Virginia Tech but managed to come away with a win. Here are some thoughts and observations from the 90-86 overtime win.

Recovering From Disaster
NC State held a five-point lead with 15 seconds to play in regulation. But Lorenzo Brown missed a free throw, then Scott Wood missed a free throw, then Erick Green and the Hokies pulled off an impressive (if illegal) intentional missed free throw and putback. All of the sudden, the Pack was going to overtime against the Hokies

"We dropped our head for about 10 or 15 seconds and were stunned a little bit, but our guys were able to regroup," Gottfried said of the team's reaction.

It would have been quite easy to fold in that overtime period after such a heart-breaking end to the first 40 minutes. And when Jarrell Eddie, of all people, started raining 3s for the Hokies in overtime it looked very well like the Pack might just go ahead and finish off the collapse that started in regulation. Instead the Pack, thanks in large part to a couple of big steals by Brown, powered through – taking the lead in overtime with under a minute remaining and hitting six of its last seven foul shots to put it away.

"I'm proud of our team," Gottfried said. "It wasn't the prettiest win, but at the end of the day that's what it was."

Howell Playing Hurt
According to Gottfried, Howell rolled his ankle against Clemson the previous and weekend and did not practice with the team at all during the previous week. He showed some signs of not being 100% after a few plays, coming up a little lame, but for the most part showed no signs of any problems as the big guy ripped down 16 rebounds and scored 10 points. He also made all four of his free throws and stayed out of foul trouble.

Howell is quietly creeping up the Pack's all-time rebounding list, moving into the top five on Saturday, and now has 951 for his career. With at least seven games remaining on the schedule, there's an outside shot that Howell could move as high as 2nd on the all-time list. He needs 115 more rebounds to match Tommy Burleson but has no chance of catching Ronnie Shavlik who grabbed an insane 1,598 in his career.

Lewis Keeps It Going
Tyler Lewis just keeps playing like a guy that has no desire to go back to riding the pine. After breaking out with Brown on the sidelines, he's just kept it going now that Brown is back and playing for the Pack. Saturday was no exception, as he provided a much needed spark for the Pack in the first half by scoring nine points in just seven minutes of play. He finished the game with 13 points on just three shot attempts but hit all six of his free throws and didn't commit a turnover.

"Tyler, for a freshman doesn't show any nervousness... I thought in the first half he was terrific... Tyler has really stepped forward for our guys," Gottfried said.

The Defensive Glass
Virginia Tech had, and this is not a typo, 21 offensive rebounds against NC State. That they scored on 14 second-chance points is nothing short of a miracle. The Pack, despite superior talent down low, was caught out of position or simply out-hustled for many rebounds. Howell, the guy who didn't practice and is playing with a bad ankle, pulled down 12 of the Pack's 26 defensive rebounds. Leslie had five defensive rebounds in 40 minutes and Warren had just one in 22 minutes.

Defensive rebounding is an overlooked part of being a good defensive team – and it's a major reason while the Pack has been so inconsistently defensively this season. The Pack, for the most part, does a good job contesting shots and forcing misses – but they give up far too many second-chance opportunities and don't force a lot of turnovers. On Saturday, that combination led to Virginia Tech hoisting up an incredible 80 shots.

Giving Virginia Tech a Window
Virginia Tech came out of the gate like a team expecting to get blown out. They simply didn't look ready to play, but instead of attacking early the Pack matched their intensity. By the 10-minute mark of the first half, the Hokies were still in the game and you could begin to see their confidence growing with each possession.

Slow starts have been an ongoing problem for the Pack, and while they didn't fall behind early in this game there were plenty of chances where the team could have opened up a big lead on the Hokies and cruised to a win. Through the first 10 minutes, Tech's Erick Green was 1-for-4 from the floor and had just two points but the Pack only had a one-point lead. Green predictably caught fire and the Pack was never able to pull away.

NC State Player of the Game
Scott Wood

For the second-straight game, Scott Wood was the guy who came up with the big plays for the Pack. Yes, he missed a free-throw late in regulation that gave the Hokies an opportunity to tie it – but he made up for that with a big 3 in overtime and an even bigger defense rebound on a 3-pointer that started a fast break for Lorenzo Brown. He finished the game with 22 points on 6-for-11 shooting behind the arc while also having one of his best defensive performances with three blocks and two steals.

Stat of the Game
181, Scott Wood's Offensive Rating
Offensive Rating is a tricky stat to explain, but essentially the Pack scored 1.8 points any time Scott Wood was involved in a possession. By comparison, the Pack's total offensive rating for the game was 119 (or 1.2 points per possession). Wood's season offensive rating of 128 is 14th in the nation and 2nd highest in the ACC behind only Reggie Bullock. His 181 rating against Virginia Tech is also the 2nd best single-game performance in ACC play this season.

Mark Gottfried on fouling when up three late in regulation:
"There's not a right answer. The ball bounced off the rim perfectly for those guys and they did an excellent job. If they weren't in such a good groove I probably wouldn't have fouled."

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