NC State came out of the gate slow, but once they got going they were putting up points. The Wolfpack shot 55% in the first half, hitting 11-of-20 shots to take a one-point halftime lead.
They were able to get some open shots offensively and in fact, the main issue they had in the first half was turnovers, as eight of them led to nine points for the Tigers.
"We had good second half of the first half that last eight or 10 minutes," said NC State head coach Mark Gottfried.
Slow starts doomed the Wolfpack.
Clemson led NC State 7-0 after four minutes. Coming out of halftime and trailing 33-32, the Tigers used a 9-0 spurt over the first four minutes of the second half to take a 41-33 lead. That was a +16 advantage for the Tigers over those two stretches.
"We had such a bad start," Gottfried stated. "And what we really needed was a great start to the second half, and we didn't. We came out flat again. We had good looks, and we couldn't make them.
They did a good job of defending us, at times, but I thought we also had a lot of good shots that we just couldn't make, open shots, and we bobbled the ball, we mishandled the ball, we did some things we don't normally do, never seemed to get going."
Capitalizing At The Line
The foul line was another big advantage for the Tigers.
Clemson, who leads the ACC in free throw percentage, had that accuracy on display against the Wolfpack, as the Tigers hit 22-of-26 foul shots, a blistering 84.6%. Clemson hit 16-of-18 in the second half, which allowed them to pad their lead when the Pack wasn't hitting from the field.
It didn't help NC State that they struggled from the line, and they also prevented themselves from getting more opportunities. The Wolfpack ended up hitting 9-of-14 attempts (64.3%), but T.J. Warren missed two front-ends of one-and-ones in the second half. Jordan Vandenberg, who missed a finger roll while being fouled, missed both of those attempts.
NC State has an 8-0 record when shooting the same number or more free throws than its opponents. State is 7-1 when making the same or more foul shots. They must not only make their free throws but find more ways to get to the line.
Free throw shooting has been bad for NC State and their free throw defense has been even worse. That is a statistic that ultimately decides close ballgames.
Defending The Other Guys
NC State's defensive gameplan was to try and K.J. McDaniels away... force someone else to beat them. Rod Hall scored 20 points. Clemson's "other guys" hit 5-of-11 3-point attempts. Three other Tigers attempted more shots than McDaniels, which is what NC State wanted. The bad news is they made shots.
"We wanted to limit K.J. [McDaniels] and try to keep him somewhat in check throughout the game, which I thought we did, at times," said Gottfried. "But I thought they had an answer. They had some other guys that stepped up and scored, probably more than they have in some other games, so you've got to give those guys some credit.
"It seemed as if all of them stepped up and made an open shot. They didn't miss the open ones they had, and you have to give them credit for that. They had a little more in the tank than we did. I thought that was the difference. They had a number of guys scoring the ball which normally they haven't had."
+/- 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, BeeJay Anya had a +/- of +4. That means NC State outscored Clemson by 4 points with Anya on the floor. Kyle Washington was -23... State was outscored by 23 points when Washington was on the floor.
BeeJay Anya: +4
Desmond Lee: +2
Tyler Lewis: -6
Lennard Freeman: -7
Jordan Vandenberg: -10
T.J. Warren: -10
Cat Barber: -15
Ralston Turner: -20
Kyle Washington: -23
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Truthfully, no one really had a great game, but T.J. Warren did manage to have 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field. He also had a seven-point spurt midway through the second half that brought the Pack closer to the Tigers.
Warren also added five rebounds, two blocks, and one steal in 37 minutes, but he had a game-high six turnovers.
"Truthfully, [T.J. has] been really spectacular," said Gottfried. "I thought today was probably the worst game he's had in a long time, and just never really got going.
"Again, he did some things he doesn't normally do. He missed some shots around the rim and he bobbled the ball out of bounds. Those are things that T.J. [Warren] doesn't do very often, so he just had one of those days. I think our whole team did and it wasn't just T.J. It was our whole team."
STAT OF THE GAME
Both teams were fairly close in terms of turnovers, as NC State had 14 and Clemson finished with 11. However, the Tigers did a much better job of capitalizing, as they converted the Wolfpack's 14 turnovers into 18 points. NC State was only able to generate eight points off of Clemson's 11 turnovers.
NC State Point Guard Tyler Lewis:
"It's very disappointing. We felt like we should have got that game up there [at Syracuse]. We felt like, we talked to the team, we're going to have to build on it. We can't have a hangover. I felt like we had a hangover today."