Here are some thoughts and observations from NC State's 67-55 overtime victory over Tennessee State Saturday afternoon at Reynolds Coliseum, which improved the Wolfpack to 7-2 on the season.
If anyone said after the game that they saw Anya's performance coming they are likely not telling the truth. To say it was out of the blue is a gross understatement. The senior was terrific against Tennessee State and NC State needed every bit of what he brought to the game Saturday,
Anya finished with his first career double-double and was three rejections away from only the second triple-double in school history. His stat line of 12 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks in 38 minutes was all the more remarkable when compared to what he had done in the previous five games combined: eight points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
With only 1:46 remaining in regulation and NC State trailing by three, Anya was fouled. Despite entering the game a career 48.9 percent free throw shooter, he calmly sank both shots from the charity stripe to cut the deficit to one. It is highly unlikely that the Wolfpack would have eventually won the game in overtime if Anya had not come through, both at that critical junction and in the contest as a whole.
The free throws came after Anya was fouled following an offensive rebound of a Smith miss from three-point range.
NC State is a young team. To be successful, the Wolfpack will need steady play from the few upperclassmen it has and Henderson is getting to the point where he can be depended on. He led the team with 21 points, adding five rebounds, and nailed three of five shots from three-point range. It was the fourth time this season the senior has scored at least 20 points in a game.
Henderson also made 8-of-9 from the free throw line. It will be interesting to see which, if any, NC State players earn the confidence to handle the ball in late game situations. Obviously the point guards will carry a significant portion of the load but if the Wolfpack is nursing a lead in the waning minutes having a dependable free throw shooter is a must. Henderson might be at the top of that list going forward.
Trailing 38-30 with slightly more than 15 minutes remaining in the second half, NC State needed to take a stand defensively. The Wolfpack clamped down as he had not before this season. Tennessee State was held scoreless for over eight minutes.The Pack would need nearly every second of that time to take the lead as NC State only scored 11 points during that span.
The Tigers shot 32.3 percent from the floor for the contest while also committing 18 turnovers. It was a stark contrast for NC State, as the opposition has had a much easier time scoring on the Wolfpack during the first eight games of the season.
The capability for NC State to grow defensively is there. The Pack has shown glimpses, such as the St. Joseph's game in St. Thomas, but the effort versus the Tigers was the best so far this season. Perhaps Mark Gottfried has found the direction to go in for the future with the zone his team played.
To be fair, Anya's success early coupled with Abu committing three fouls in the first half had a huge impact on how ineffective the junior was Saturday. That being said, it has been a struggle for Abu of late.
Abu finished three points on 1-of-3 shooting from the floor in only 20 minutes. It is the third time in the last four games he has finished in single digits scoring.
NC State struggled from the floor all afternoon. The Wolfpack shot 20-of-57 (35.1 percent) from the field and 4-of-15 (26.7%) from three-point range.
Perhaps more disturbing for NC State was the free throw shooting. Anya missed five of 11 attempts but that could be expected from a guy that has missed more than half of his free throws in his career. Dennis Smith going 4-of-9 from the charity stripe, including missing all three after being fouled on a three-point attempt, was a trend the Wolfpack hopes will not continue.
+/- is the points scored by a team minus the points allowed by a team while a certain player is on the floor.
BeeJay Anya: +13
Dennis Smith Jr.: +13
Abdul-Malik Abu: +11
Torin Dorn Jr.: +11
Maverick Rowan: +10
Terry Henderson: +6
Markell Johnson: 0
Ted Kapita: -4
STAT OF THE GAME
NC State held Tennessee State to 32.3% shooting, the lowest the Tigers have shot all season.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
BeeJay Anya: 12 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks in 38 minutes
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"BeeJay today, what more can you say. The guy affected the game in just about every way. Defensively, it was a great matchup game for him. They had a big guy in there like him, really strong, so it was a good kind of matchup for BeeJay, and offensively he did a good job of getting the ball around the rim and scoring. Blocked shots, defensive rebounds, he impacted the game in a lot of different ways. It was really a big factor. A great day for BeeJay". -- Mark Gottfried