NC State couldn't have played a worse first half, but to their credit they bounced back with a productive final twenty minutes against North Carolina.
The Pack shot 65.4% in the second half, hitting 17-of-26 shots. They attacked the basket at will and played through contact, something they didn't do to start the game when they often seemed to avoid potential contact.
Desmond Lee led the way, as the junior guard scored all 18 of his points after halftime.
"I don't think it was only just Desmond (Lee)," said Mark Gottfried. "I thought in the second half our team did a much better job. We showed a lot of spirit in the second half. We just looked dazed in the first half.
"We were able to get to the rim with our perimeter players so we just stayed with it."
State's play in the second half was negated because of how poor they were offensively to start the game.
The numbers were dreadful. NC State hit just 25% of their first-half shots and made just 2-of-7 free throws. Add it all up and the Pack trailed 40-23 at halftime, a deficit that was too much to overcome.
Perhaps most frustrating was the Pack didn't just turn the ball over a lot. They got shots... good looks. They just didn't convert. In fact, they missed six layups in the first half.
"I just think that we just got off to a really slow start," said Gottfried. "We got to the foul line early and missed foul shots right to start the game. We had a couple good looks early and missed those. Sometimes when you have a young team maybe they drop their heads a little bit and start to get unsure, so it just kind of steamrolled there in the first half.
"I did like the fact that we came out to start the half and had great competitive spirit. Like I said, though, you're in too big of a hole at that point to overcome it."
Sharing The Wealth
NC State isn't going to win many games when they don't share the basketball and finish the opportunities that they do. Early on, the Pack squandered several fastbreak opportunities by either not making the extra pass or not finishing when they did.
NC State finished the game with just seven assists on 27 made field goals. That type of distribution isn't going to work for them. The Wolfpack is now 1-6 this season when they have fewer than 10 assists in a basketball game, with the lone win coming at Tennessee.
Even in the second half, when they were scoring, much of it came on isolation/one-on-one plays, as State had just two assists on 17 made baskets.
It seemed like some of their early struggles could have been negated had NC State did a better job of sharing the ball and working to get open within the offense.
North Carolina shot just 40.6% from the field, and much of their success came on second shots as NC State's first possession defense was stellar.
The Heels totaled 22 offensive rebounds that led to 20 second-chance points, a disturbing trend for the Wolfpack.
NC State has now allowed five straight opponents to grab double-digit offensive rebounds and score double-digit second-chance points.
North Carolina hit just 17-of-45 attempts inside the paint and most of their conversions were offensive putbacks.
"The backboards 52-36 was big for us," said North Carolina head coach Roy Williams. "Second-chance points was big for us."
+/- 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 -1. That means NC State was outscored by 1 point with Lewis on the floor. T.J. Warren was -33... State was outscored by 33 points when Warren was on the floor.
Tyler Lewis: -1
Desmond Lee: -2
BeeJay Anya: -10
Lennard Freeman: -13
Cat Barber: -19
Jordan Vandenberg: -24
Kyle Washington: -24
Ralston Turner: -29
T.J. Warren: -33
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Desmond Lee played with some urgency, particularly in the second half.
The junior guard scored 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field, and he added three rebounds, a team-high three assists, and two steals.
STAT OF THE GAME
North Carolina entered the game as one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country. Their 61.8% percentage ranked dead last in the ACC.
However, the Tar Heels hit 25-of-33 versus State, a strong 75.8%, which included 15-of-17 in the second half.
"I thought the other guys (excluding Cat Barber) on the floor were not moving very well without the ball. Now he is out there thinking ‘Who am I going to pass it to without them stealing the ball?' So his answer was to take it to the basket. It puts a lot of pressure on the ball handler to try to make a play."