Here are some thoughts and observations from NC State's 112-94 loss to No. 20 Creighton Sunday in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
There can be little qualms with NC State's offense against Creighton. The only thing that limiting the Wolfpack would have to be the same thing that allowed the Blue Jays to take control in the second half: Foul Trouble.
It is unlikely that Terry Henderson will shot three-pointers as well as he did Sunday but the other strengths NC State possessed, such as driving to the basket and hitting mid-range shots will be assets for the Pack in the future if the team can build off of it.
NC State scored 94 points against a top-20 team that has already defeated a top-10 school. Typically that will get it done.
The much-ballyhooed freshman scored 21 points again. Against Creighton he limited his turnovers to only two while dishing out seven assists. He also knocked down seven-of-nine free throws. The shooting from the floor was not great (6-for-16) so that is something to look at in the next few games.
A source of concern going into the game, Henderson exploded for a career-best 28 points on 7-for-11 shooting from 3-point range. Perhaps most importantly, he exuded confidence and pragmatism after the game when address his and his team's performance.
NC State, sans three players that will be counted on to contribute this season, could not afford any foul trouble but unfortunately for the Wolfpack that is exactly what occurred. BeeJay Anya fouled out and Abdul-Malik Abu finished with four fouls, which meant NC State had little in way of impacting the game from the inside. Shaun Kirk had three first half fouls in only five minutes. Henderson, who was on fire with five 3-pointers prior to intermission, also had to sit a considerable amount of time.
The Wolfpack just did not have enough weapons once the game was tightly officiated. The fact that NC State somehow managed to play eight players is actually astounding.
Creighton basically scored at will. The Blue Jays drove the lane with impunity and always seemed to find a wide open shooter behind the three-point line -- and most of the team appeared capable of hitting threes. NC State will have to improve defensively if it is to compete in the ACC. Luckily for the Wolfpack, there is still ample time to shore up things.
The Blue Jays shot over 60 percent from the floor. While some of that can be attributed to being streaky or NC State's foul trouble, the problem certainly runs deeper.
NC STATE +/-
+/- is essentially the points scored by a team minus the points allowed by a team while a certain player is on the floor.
Dorn Jr.: -19
Smith Jr.: -23
PLAYER OF THE GAME
The truth is Henderson effort in the first half spared NC State from significant embarrassment. He hit his five first half three-pointers at a time when the game was frantic but he shot with a comfort level of someone who took what the defense was giving. Like the younger players, Henderson has some catching up to do as he has essentially missed two seasons in a row. His leadership will be important this season for the Wolfpack, as it is a young team whose other upperclassmen, Anya and Abu, do not appear to be vocal in that area.
STAT OF THE GAME
Abu and Anya combined: 17 points (7-15 FG, 3-6 FT), 13 rebounds, 9 fouls, 45 minutes
"We are a young team and we still have a long ways to go. We played our hearts out and we competed to the very end so that's all you can really ask for." -- Terry Henderson