NOTEBOOK: Trouble In The Paint

BOSTON, MASS -- The most glaring problem with the Wolfpack Saturday was their interior defense.

It’s frustrating watching a team that contained Marcus Paige to just seven points on 3-of-8 shooting allow Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan, a far less known player, drop a game-high 24 points.

To the Eagles’ credit, it felt like every shot they took fell – and they came close. The home team shot 65 percent from the field in the first half, including 62.5 percent from beyond the arc. With those numbers, NC State didn’t have much of a choice to defend the perimeter, but at what cost?

Senior guard Patrick Heckmann was the catalyst in the first half, setting the tone with a game-high seven assists in the opening 20 minutes. Heckmann at times is an enigma – he’s always running at 150 percent, but sometimes he’s going too fast and gets in his own way. But when he’s on, look out.

The 6-foot-5 German can score from any spot on the floor, but his dribble penetration is deadly. Tack on his playmaking abilities at their height like they were today, and any team would have trouble with him.

But still, after trailing by 17 at halftime, the Pack never made much of an adjustment until after the midway point of the second half, and by then it was too late to catch up. Hanlan kept slashing, Heckmann and Aaron Brown complimented with 14 and 13 points apiece, and Dennis Clifford (10 points, five rebounds, five fouls) cleaned up anything that actually missed when he was able to stay on the floor.

It doesn’t help that no one on the Wolfpack roster is listed above 6-foot-9, but it hurts a bit more when Hanlan and Heckmann have a wide open lane to drive down the middle of the floor.

On Second Thought
Looking at the numbers, you wouldn’t know the painted area was the source of struggle Saturday. Boston College only outscored State by four points, 30-26, inside. The Pack actually managed to out-rebound the Eagle as well, 37-35, including 18 on the offensive glass to BC’s five.

The offensive glass has been a source of trouble all season for BC, so it’s relieving to see that even on an off day the Pack could still take advantage of that.

In fact, inside scoring wasn’t the problem at all. The Pack got to the hoop nearly as freely and often as the Eagles did. That was very clear considering both Clifford and Heckmann eventually fouled out, while Hanlon himself finished with four personal fouls.

If this team can sure up the interior defense and cut down on fouls (they had 25 as a team Saturday), they could definitely make things happen. Just ask Duke, Louisville, and North Carolina.

Homecoming For Abu
Abdul Malik-Abu, had a solid performance, and for most of the afternoon, he was one of the only members of the team (along with Kyle Washington) with anything resembling a respectable shooting percentage (he finished 3-of-6 for 50 percent), was the second player on the team in double digits (finished with 10 points), and pulled in a team-high five rebounds, all of which came on the offensive glass. He also only committed two fouls. Five other member of the team finished with three or more.

Abu grew up just outside of Boston in Marblehead and played his best high school ball at Kimball Union, a prep school that’s only a short two-hour drive away from Chestnut Hill.

At times Saturday, Abu looked like the most competent player on the court, despite playing just 20 minutes. With the proper grooming, he could be a special player before his college days are done.

Parting Shots
Olivier Hanlan’s 24 points were the most any opposing player has scored against NC State since Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant pumped in 25 points back on January 25. It’s also the second-highest total for an opposing player since the calendar turned. Wake Forest’s Codi Miller-McIntyre, Georgia Tech’s Marcus Georges-Hunt, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor had all previously scored 23 in 2015.

Trevor Lacey led all NC State scorers with 14 points in the previous two performances, while Kyle Washington was the high scorer with 14 Saturday. The last time an NC State player scored 20 or more was February 14 when Anthony Barber scored 21 at Louisville in a win. Washington, who hasn't played much recently, was 5-of-7 from the field and also grabbed seven rebounds.

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