Observations From the Game: Duke

Here are some final thoughts and observations from NC State's 95-60 loss at Duke.

Here are some final thoughts and observations from NC State's 90-65 loss at Duke.

Field Goal Shooting
NC State hadn't shot better than 42% from the field in the Pack's previous six games. They were coming off a loss at Wake Forest where they hit just 41.8% of their attempts from the field.

They came out in Cameron and knocked down 48.1% (25-of-52) of their shots and seemed to get some other good looks. Playing in a tough environment with a young team, I'm sure heading into the game that Mark Gottfried would have gladly taken 48% shooting from the field given the Pack's recent woes.

However, it was really a non-factor because of the turnovers that limited their field goal attempts (Duke took 14 more shots) and inefficiency at the free throw line (8-of-16) and 3-point line (2-of-8).

NC State's inability to take care of the ball lost them this basketball game. It's really that simple.

The Wolfpack finished the game with 21 turnovers that Duke turned into a staggering 33 points. Kyle Washington, Desmond Lee, and Cat Barber each had four, and ever player that played had at least one turnover for the Wolfpack.

The turnovers came in a variety of ways. Bad passes... poor ballhandling... errant drives down the lane... stepping out of bounds.

"I thought the turnovers, the fact that they turned most of the turnovers into points was the difference in the game," said Mark Gottfried. "I think the first half, if you look at it I think they had 16 baskets and we had 14, but a number of those were threes and most of those were off of turnovers... our turnovers.

"That was the name of the game."

Sharing The Ball
A part of State's problem offensively was they didn't really share the basketball. The Pack's offense often turned into an isolation set-up instead of moving the ball to try and find an open teammate.

Nothing supports that more than the fact that NC State had just six assists in the game. SIX. That's the lowest for the Wolfpack all season. Those six were recorded by two players: Cat Barber and Desmond Lee. No other player had an assist in the game.

"The pressure was pretty hard," said Warren after the game. "The guards couldn't get into a rhythm and take care of the basketball. That's the main thing. Our wings have got to do a better job of getting open."

This team has some players that can score one-on-one (see the field goal percentage in the game), but that's not the way it's built to play. The frontcourt players are at their best when receiving the ball near the rim, and the guards aren't consistently getting into the lane and looking to pass, instead they are taking contested shots.

It's the third-straight game that NC State failed to reach double-digits in assists after doing so in 12 of the first 15 games.

Handling The Environment
Everyone knows that playing in Cameron is a tough task... look at Duke's home record, that says it all.

To win in that environment you must compete as a team, play with passion, and show some poise... things NC State didn't seem to do much of in the loss.

After turnovers guys would sulk or bicker with each other. If a Duke player scored on a drive a Pack player would shake his head in disapproval, rather than doing something about it.

You will never win at Duke playing like that.

NC State is a young team that's reeling right now following three straight losses. Someone must step up and take on a leadership role because it doesn't get any easier moving forward.

Defending The Devils
Granted, Duke had a lot of easy looks in transition due to State's high number of turnovers, but it's never good to allow an opposing team to shoot 50% from the field, which Duke did.

The Blue Devils hit 33-of-66 attempts and to make matters worse, they hit 11-of-24 3-pointers (45.8%). Now, they did make some contested three-pointers, but NC State gave up too many open looks because of poor player rotation and leaving a shooter open when there was really no need to do so.

Why should Cat Barber leave Quinn Cook open behind the 3-point line with Rodney Hood is driving to the basket? What is Barber going to do? Why should Kyle Washington do the same with Jabari Parker open in the corner if Rasheed Sulaimon is driving down the baseline into two OTHER NC State defenders?

NC State has to play smarter defensively. Duke is a team that often uses dribble penetration to free up shooters. You must make the Blue Devils finish at the rim over Jordan Vandenberg, BeeJay Anya, and Kyle Washington. You don't leave wing shooters to defend from perimeter because Duke will make you pay from behind the 3-point line.

"We have just got to have more energy on the defensive end," said Warren. "We have got to have the will to stop them. We'll look at the game, watch the film, work hard and get better to fix the errors."

PACK +/-
+/- is essentially the points scored by a team minus the points allowed by a team while a certain player is on the floor.

So, as you can see below, Tyler Lewis had a +/- of -8. That means NC State was outscored by Duke by 8 points with Lewis on the floor. T.J. Warren was -31... State was outscored by 31 points when Warren was on the floor.

Tyler Lewis: -8
BeeJay Anya: -10
Desmond Lee: -20
Ralston Turner: -22
Jordan Vandenberg: -25
Kyle Washington: -29
Cat Barber: -30
T.J. Warren: -31

Sophomore wing T.J. Warren played well in defeat.

The only Wolfpack player to reach double figures, Warren scored a game-high 23 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the field. He also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and added a block and a steal.

Warren still took probably one or two more three-pointers than he really needed to, but he was ultra-aggressive in attacking Duke off the dribble, whether it was Rodney Hood, Rasheed Sulaimon, or Amile Jefferson.

"I thought T.J. played hard, he competed hard," said Gottfried. "They did a good job of keeping fresh bodies on him and denying him the ball. They made it hard for him to catch it first, prior to doing anything else.

"But I thought he really competed hard for his team."

We've talked about it some already, but the turnover differential was the key to the game. NC State had 21 turnovers. Duke had eight. Duke scored 33 points off NC State's 21 turnovers. The Wolfpack turned Duke's eight into just two points. That's a +31 advantage for the Blue Devils.

"We turned it over too many times," said Gottfried. "That was the biggest difference in the game."

Mark Gottfried:
"I think Duke was terrific. You've got to give them credit. I think the way Mike (Krzyzewski) used their depth and their pressure defense affected our inexperience and our short bench."

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