Barber Runs The Show
From a point guard standpoint, this might have been Cat Barber's best game of the season.
The talented freshman was superb in all facets, finishing the game with 16 points (7-13 FG, 1-3 FT), a game-high eight assists, two rebounds, one steal, and some terrific on-ball defense. Most importantly, he bounced back from a shaky outing against Tennessee and had just one turnover.
"If we don't turn the ball over, we will be great," said Barber after the game. "We have so [many opportunities] to do well if we don't turn over the ball."
Barber's eight assists were a career high, and to do so, with just one turnover, in an uptempo game against East Carolina was impressive.
Sharing The Wealth
Barber's unselfishness carried over to the rest of the team, as the Wolfpack finished with 20 assists and just eight turnovers. It was a huge difference from in the win against Tennessee where the Pack had eight assists and 16 turnovers.
NC State shot a stellar 58.2% from the field, including a blistering 63.3% in the second half. Much of it was due to terrific ball-movement, crisp passing, and a willingness to share the basketball. The Wolfpack had six different players record at least two assists.
This team clearly has strong chemistry and it's carrying over to the basketball court, particularly on offense.
"I do really like this team," said Mark Gottfried. "I like the energy every day. There is a real eagerness in practice every day. I like that. It is fun. They are youthful and they're anxious to learn. The most important thing right now—I think our team is improving. I think we're getting better."
Another Block Party
Fresh off a 12-block performance, NC State's big men were back at it again on Saturday. They didn't match the dozen, but they did manage to tally nine more blocks, controlling East Carolina in the paint and forcing them to try to score almost exclusively from the perimeter.
Starting center Jordan Vandenberg had three blocks, but it was BeeJay Anya who really stood out. The mammoth freshman center recorded five blocks in just 12 minutes, and the majority came late in the first half when the Pack used a 15-0 run to seize control of the game.
Gottfried praised his young center for the spark he provided.
"I thought BeeJay in the first half changed the game," said Gottfried. "He changed the game. He gave us a great lift, blocking shots. I thought that changed things for us. BeeJay generated that for run for us early."
While the Pack was performing well defensively in the interior, they had problems, at times, defending East Carolina's plethora of perimeter shooters.
The Pirates knocked down 10-of-27 3-pointers and had multiple other open chances that didn't go down. With the Pack sticking with its big lineup, they had some issues, especially early on, handling East Carolina's ball-screen actions.
"They are quick, they spread the floor and they are hard to guard," said Gottfried. "I thought the first 10-12 minutes of the game they were phenomenal and we had all kinds of trouble guarding them. I think our team beat a good team today. "
PLAYER OF THE GAME
It seems like it is the case every game, but sophomore forward T.J. Warren is playing at an extremely high level.
He finished with a career-high 32 points on an efficient 14-of-23 from the field. He hit 2-of-8 3-point attempts, 2-of-3 free throws, and also added eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block.
It was just another day at the office for Warren, who has taken his game up a notch since sliding back to the small forward position seven games ago. Over that stretch, which coincided with Jordan Vandenberg's return to the lineup, he is averaging 26.7 points and eight rebounds while hitting 57% of his shots.
"I think (Vandenberg's return from injury) helps a lot," said Gottfried. "It puts T.J. (Warren) back at his natural position. We had those first four games of the year (prior to Vandenberg's return) and I wasn't comfortable playing two freshmen at the same time. With Jordan and even BeeJay (Anya) coming along now.
"It allows T.J. to play on the wing, get ahead on the fast break and guard a wing player instead of a post player. He is just more comfortable there. We are a better team with that lineup."
STAT OF THE GAME
58. NC State dominated the paint, scoring 58 points inside the lane to just 26 for the Pirates. That 32-point advantage proved critical for the Wolfpack. Leading the way was Vandenberg, who hit 9-of-10 shots from inside the paint, including seven dunks.
"Our Wolfpack Nation, they want to win. They don't care how young we are. They don't care. I get it. I like that. I like that we have a fan base that wants that from their teams. So hopefully we can get better. You just take it day-by-day."