It hasn't happened much this year, but NC State was able to go to the bench and find point production in Tuesday night's win.
The Pack outscored Notre Dame 23-9 in bench points, and that 14-point differential proved critical. Ralston Turner led the way with 12 points, including seven in the second half.
Tyler Lewis scored just two points, but he finished with a team-high four assists in his 17 minutes of action.
"I'm really proud of our bench," said Mark Gottfried. "I thought our bench came in and gave us great minutes, all of them.
"I think Tyler stands out to me. He played a great floor game with four assists and one turnover. He did a great job."
Second Half Defense
Notre Dame was able to keep it close in the first half because of their hot shooting, as the Fighting Irish hit 15-of-30 shots and had just three turnovers. However, that changed in the final 20 minutes.
NC State's defense was stifling in the second half. The Pack limited Notre Dame to just 33.3% shooting from the field (12-of-36) and perhaps more importantly, forced eight turnovers that they turned into 11 points (while yielding just three points off turnovers themselves).
The biggest impact was felt at point guard, where Cat Barber and Tyler Lewis held star Notre Dame point guard Eric Atkins to just 1-of-8 shooting from the field. In fact, the backcourt duo of Atkins and Demetrius Jackson hit just 1-of-10 shots in the second half.
"Notre Dame, I think, is very good," said Gottfried. "They're hard to guard. I thought our guys did a good job of following the plan that we wanted to use.
"I thought defensively we did a good job in the second half of never letting them get in a good rhythm."
A lot of folks have viewed NC State as a one-man team offensively, mainly due to the stellar scoring numbers sophomore wing T.J. Warren has posted. He came into the game leading the ACC in scoring and in the Pack's losses this year he has had some issues scoring.
However, that wasn't the case against Notre Dame. Warren managed to lead the team in scoring with 17 points but hit just 6-of-17 field goals. The rest of the team had his back.
Three other Wolfpack players joined Warren in double figures, as Cat Barber (16), Desmond Lee (12), and Ralston Turner (12) added offense at different stages of the game. Every player that played for NC State scored, and Lewis and BeeJay Anya were the only two who didn't hit at least two field goals.
Moving forward, this game should give the team plenty of confidence as they now know they don't have to rely strictly on Warren to produce to win. The Pack moved the ball to find good shots and even on a night where they shot just 41.4% they shared the wealth offensively.
"We shared the ball," Gottfried stated. "We weren't relying on one guy like we do sometimes with T.J.. He's so talented that at times we rely on him a little too much, but everybody stepped up. At halftime, everybody that played had already scored."
It's really simple with NC State's offense. They seem to struggle when they are content to settle for quick mid-range jumpers or three-point shots early in the shotclock.
The team hit just 4-of-13 3-pointers, but it was more than that. Cat Barber seemed to settle for mid-range jumpers far too much, especially early in the game. Warren and Turner the same. It's magnified when they do so with 25+ seconds left on the shotclock.
Those moments were when Notre Dame made their runs. When NC State moved the ball, utilized the shotclock and looked to attack the paint they were much more successful offensively.
This is an area State needs to focus on... when is the right time to take mid-range jumpers and three-pointers because the team numbers indicate they are at their best when getting the ball into paint either through dribble penetration, offensive sets, or in transition.
"What happened was we got away from just executing our offense," said Gottfried. "Run your offense and take what the defense gives you. Take what's there.
"We have good scorers on the floor and I thought we had a stretch where we rushed, got in a hurry and took shots that weren't best for our team."
Speaking of transition, NC State wasn't able to get anything going in that area.
The Wolfpack had just two fastbreak points. Notre Dame made it a point to get back defensively (they rarely send more than one or two players to the offensive glass) and when State was able to get out in transition they had some issues converting.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
We're going to go with junior wing Ralston Turner, who came off the bench to score 12 points in 18 minutes. He hit 3-of-5 field goals, 2-of-3 3-pointers, and 4-of-5 free throws, but what stood out was a spurt he had in the second half when State needed someone to produce.
Notre Dame hit a layup at the 8:03 mark to cut NC State's lead to 58-56 and seemed to have some momentum, but on the next possession Turner came down and hit a 3-pointer (late in the shotclock) in front of the Wolfpack's bench to push the lead back to five.
A couple of minutes later Turner had a steal and layup that he was fouled on, and the three-point play gave the Pack a seven-point lead at the 5:12 mark.
State could have folded there, but Turner made a couple of huge shots that gave the Wolfpack a three-possession lead entering the closing minutes.
STAT OF THE GAME
78.1%. All Wolfpack fans know this team has had issues hitting free throws, but the Pack knocked down 25-of-32 (78.1%) in the win, outscoring Notre Dame by 16 points at the free throw line.
"Our guys did a great job of concentrating," Gottfried said. "We had the right foul shooters getting the ball and they stepped up and hit foul shots."
"I'm really proud of our guys. In the second half of our last game we were pretty abysmal and our guys responded. I think that's important.
"That's probably the biggest thing to me. We showed some resiliency to bounce back after a tough second half against Pitt. Our guys had great focus, great concentration, their togetherness was amazing."