Defending The Spartans
UNC Greensboro had their moments offensively, but for the most part NC State did a terrific job of defending the Spartans. The Wolfpack held UNCG to just 37.9% shooting from the field and forced 16 turnovers.
The Spartans received the majority of their production in the paint, where big men Kayel Locke and Kyle Cain scored, but did so while shooting just 11-of-27 from the field. Both started hot against the Wolfpack before hitting just 7-of-18 shots in the second half.
NC State also held the Spartans to just 3-of-15 shooting from 3-point range, limiting sharpshooter Nicholas Paulos to 1-of-5 behind the arc.
"That's a tough team to play against," said NC State head coach Mark Gottfried. "They obviously had a lot of confidence after beating Virginia Tech."
NC State could have really been in trouble this game if they didn't come out of halftime the way they did.
The Pack excelled on both ends of the floor in the first four minutes of the second half, using a 16-2 run to take a 54-37 lead at the 16:03 mark after leading 38-35 at halftime.
How did they do it? Defense. The Wolfpack turned up the pressure on the defensive end that led to turnovers and quick shots, which allowed the Wolfpack to get going in transition and score easy baskets.
"I thought our defensive pressure was better," Gottfried said of the spurt.
While the Pack struggled at times in the halfcourt they didn't have many problems scoring in transition.
NC State finished with 16 fastbreak points, but that number could have been even larger had they knocked down the free throw opportunities they had from pushing the basketball.
With Cat Barber's speed and the ability of Desmond Lee and T.J. Warren to fill the lanes, NC State is a dangerous team once they can get running. However, to do so they must continue to force turnovers and secure rebounds. When they were able to do that against UNC Greensboro they were at their best.
As strong as State was in transition they had their issues in the halfcourt.
At times there was very little ball movement and the Pack seemed to settle for jumpers more than they needed to against a UNC Greensboro squad that was much smaller in the paint and on the perimeter.
T.J. Warren had a dunk at the 10:43 mark that gave State a 60-48 lead. They made just one more field goal the rest of the game, a dunk by Desmond Lee on a set play out of a timeout. UNC Greensboro was scoring, which kept the Wolfpack out of transition and NC State wasn't able to put the ball in the basket in the halfcourt.
Gottfried liked the shots his team was getting... they just didn't go in.
"I thought late in the game we had some pretty good shots," he stated. "We couldn't make any of them."
Free Throw Shooting
Free throw shooting is becoming a major issue for NC State. It has already led to a couple of losses and nearly did so again on Monday night.
The Pack hit just 19-of-33 free throws (57.6%), and that included just 10-of-21 in the second half. Freshman forward Lennard Freeman missed all five free throws he attempted, and Cat Barber hit just 5-of-9 in the final 20 minutes after knocking down all four he tried in the first half.
Luckily for NC State, UNC Greensboro wasn't much better. The Spartans hit just 17-of-28 free throw attempts.
Going forward, Barber knows he and his teammates must be better at the charity stripe.
"We have to get better at the free throw line," said Barber. "I have to get better at the line... once we get better it's going to open up the game for us."
"We're giving points away at the foul line," added Gottfried. "For us to beat good teams we just can't do it... that can become an Achilles heel."
There is no excuse for UNC Greensboro to outrebound NC State. The Spartans starting big men check in at 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-7 and they grabbed 14 rebounds. Reserve R.J. White came off the bench to snatch seven boards in 17 minutes.
UNC Greensboro finished the game +8 on the glass, outrebounding NC State 43-35. That led to a +6 advantage in second-chance points (17-to-11) for the Spartans.
The rebounding difference was noticeable in the second half when UNCG was +11. NC State continues to have issues boxing out when a big man rotates to contest a shot.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Sophomore forward T.J. Warren was the go-to guy for the Wolfpack.
He finished with 24 points on 9-of-18 from the field. He hit just 1-of-4 3-point attempts, 5-of-8 free throws, and also added nine rebounds, two assists, and a steal.
It's worth pointing out that after taking 12 shots in the first half he only managed to attempt six in the second half, despite, as Gottfried pointed out, the Wolfpack looking to find him offensively. The Spartans did double-team Warren more in the second half, but for Gottfried, that's just fine.
"We tried to go to T.J. a lot down the stretch," he stated. "We have very capable scorers on the floor. If he's double-teamed he's going to find the scorers and get it out of there."
STAT OF THE GAME
24. Not only did NC State force 16 turnovers, but they turned them into 24 points while only yielding 11 points off turnovers to the Spartans. That 13-point advantage was absolutely huge for the Wolfpack.
"I think the first 15 minutes of the game the blunt truth of the matter was their post players just kicked our butts... they did anything they wanted to do."