Pack Grinds Away Offensively
Playing against a tough Miami defense, NC State seemed to do enough offensively to win the basketball game.
They managed to score 70 points while shooting nearly 47% from the field, had just nine turnovers and finished with 13 assists on 24 made baskets... normally a winning formula for the Wolfpack.
In fact, Miami had held 19 of its last 21 opponents to less than 70 points, and only four teams overall this season had scored 70 or more points on the Canes.
Heading into the game, NC State was 12-3 when scoring over 70 points and 13-6 when they finished with fewer turnovers than their opponent. However, State's offensive output was negated by a porous defense.
"We climbed back," said Mark Gottfried. "We got over the hump and then missed an open ‘3' which could have given us a bigger lead and then they made a run which negated our run and we just didn't respond.
"We lost our drive at that point. We climbed a mountain and they took it back over. It is hard to climb a mountain twice. We lost our momentum."
If you ask Mark Gottfried why his team lost, one word would likely be his answer: defense.
All game long the Pack struggled defending the Canes. Man, zone, it really didn't matter. Miami shot an astounding 58.7% from the field and had five guys in double-figures.
Gottfried said on Friday that Rion Brown was a focal point, and he led the Canes with 20 points, but it wasn't just him. Everyone produced for Miami.
"It was really a disappointing defensive effort on our part," said Gottfried. "It was a frustrating day. We went to Syracuse and lost a tough one then didn't have any energy at Clemson.
"The last two days we have talked about getting ourselves back up and ready to go and today we had heavy legs. That can't happen."
NC State's main problem was defending Miami's ball-screen offense. The Canes love to get their big men involved in screen-and-roll situations, and what they did a lot of was using the non-screening big as a flasher and attacker off the dribble... where Eric Swoope did most of his damage.
It seemed like State switched up their schemes on defending the screen but Miami simply executed. If State's big man hedged the Canes would use quick ball movement to get an open look. If State's big man didn't hedge a Miami guard would convert a contested layup at the rim, and if he missed center Tonye Jekiri seemed to be there to clean up the misses.
Swoope and Jekiri, Miami's starting post players, combined to go 11-of-15 from the field and 7-8 from the free throw line... a total of 29 points and 19 rebounds. They came in averaging 3.7 points and 2.3 rebounds and 3.8 points and 4.8 rebounds respectively.
"We had a difficult time guarding them off the dribble," said Gottfried. "They did a nice job with their ball screen action by throwing back to a forward and letting their forwards attack us off the dribble. That gave us a lot of problems.
"We were a step slow and could not guard them. We did not step over and take the charge, even when we had some opportunities to."
Despite their defensive struggles, NC State was able to battle back from a deficit and take a 65-64 lead with just over six minutes remaining, mainly due to their press defense that led to a flurry of dunks by T.J. Warren.
However, they couldn't maintain the lead and Miami answered with a 9-0 spurt to seize control while closing the game on a 21-5 run.
"I liked our first effort to get back in the game," said Gottfried. "T.J. Warren on the point of the press was good and that gave us some life and an opportunity, but we just were not able to capitalize on it."
"We turned it over and they got buckets off of that," added Miami head coach Jim Larranaga. "Once we broke the press we were able to continue to attack the basket and score and we went to a triangle-and-two defense to try to keep the ball out of Warren's hands and either Desmond Lee or Ralston Turner's. And basically that was effective because Jekiri got every defensive rebound."
Free Throw Differential
NC State continues to lose games at the free throw line.
While the Wolfpack hit just 16-of-24 attempts (66.7%), Miami was dominant, knocking down 26-of-32 attempts. 81.3% is really, really good... especially when you have 30+ attempts.
"We made our free throws and I was very pleased with that," said Larranaga.
+/- 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, Cat Barber and Lennard Freeman had a +/- of +3. That means NC State outscored Miami by 3 points with Freeman and Barber on the floor. T.J. Warren was -19... State was outscored by 19 points when Warren was on the floor.
Tyler Lewis: -18
Desmond Lee: -8
BeeJay Anya: -8
Lennard Freeman: +3
Cat Barber: +3
Jordan Vandenberg: -2
Kyle Washington: -12
Ralston Turner: -14
T.J. Warren: -19
PLAYER OF THE GAME
It was far from his best performance, but T.J. Warren still managed to score 20 points (8-18 FG) and grab a team-high seven boards with a game-high three steals.
"T.J. has been really good for our team," said Gottfried. "Today, I thought he was really good. There are expectations for him to be almost Superman ever night.
"Miami did a good job of not letting him have a lot of freedom to move around. When he drove in one or two guys were right there collapsing on him. He tried to do everything he could to help us. I don't listen to all of the other stuff."
"He's a pro," added Larranaga. "He can score in so many different ways. He can shoot the three, he's dynamic going to his right hand, getting in the lanes.
"He's got all kinds of floaters and he's got a fantastic touch. A lot of guys can shoot but he's got a touch, he can get it in and out of his hands quickly, he's a great offensive rebounder and he makes his free throws. So he's got the whole package offensively."
STAT OF THE GAME
Anytime a team shoots 58.7% for the game, like Miami did, you're in trouble.
"I thought we were very heavy-legged today. That can't happen, that just can't happen."