Here are some thoughts and observations from NC State's 97-64 win over App State, which improved the Wolfpack to 8-2 on the season.
Smith Leads The Way
This was probably Dennis Smith's best overall performance of the season, and that's asying a lot given the prolific numbers he's posted during his short time in a NC State uniform.
The talented freshman point guard was locked in from the start, scoring eight of the Pack's first 14 points, and finished with a game-high 22 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field. His constant pressure on the Mountaineer defense, along with his own aggressiveness defensively, led to Smith attempting 12 free throws, hitting 11.
"I got to the free throw line," he said. "It starts with defense. We had a lot of energy on defense, and I was able to get out in transition. Our bigs threw some great outlet passes. The refs were blowing the whistle pretty well tonight."
Smith chipped in six assists and three steals, both game-highs, in 26 minutes.
"I thought Dennis was terrific," said NC State head coach Mark Gottfried. "What I liked the most about Dennis tonight was he dove on the floor twice. To me, that sets the tone for our team. He was making jumpshots, 11-of-12 from the foul line, defensively he was good. I thought he played really well."
With Maverick Rowan back and Omer Yurtseven finally in the lineup, THIS was the team Mark Gottfried envisioned having coming into the season. Injuries and suspensions led to the Pack, for most of the year, playing without two or three key contributors, but the added depth is what can make this team really good.
State has struggled all year with getting consistent production from the reserves, but with Rowan and Yurtseven coming off the bench, the Pack finished with 46 bench points.
"We have a lot of great players," said Smith. "We're just going to stick together as a team and we're going to take on anybody."
For Gottfried, the depth can also impact on the defensive end.
"I think our depth will help us defensively," he said. "We can keep fresh bodies in the game."
Most importantly, the additional depth will push players to work harder in practice and perform in games.
"I'm not sure how our lineup will eventually work out," added Gottfried. "Our guys understand, play better, play more. It's old-fashioned... been around 150 years I think. It works that way. It's sports. They know it.
"This isn't church league. It's a business. You have to play well, and the better you play the more you play. We have some guys sitting over there... they want to play. Competition is a good thing."
Strong Defense Continues
For the second game in a row, the Pack performed well defensively. NC State limited App State to just 31.6% shooting, ASU's second-worst shooting percentage for the season, and held the Mountaineers to just six fastbreak points.
"I think we've been better defensively," said Smith. "They told that it starts with me so in practice I'm talking trash, trying to make everybody go hard and in games I try to bring that same energy."
What was a major positive for NC State was they didn't have to play much zone, instead doing a better job of defending App State with their man-to-man defense, which enables the Wolfpack to rebound better. Again, the depth allows guys to work harder and longer defensively.
Gottfried has seen progress but wants to see even more.
"I think we can become really good defensively because of our depth, athleticism, and size inside," he said.
After missing the first nine games due to a NCAA suspension, Wolfpack freshman center Omer Yurtseven made his much-anticipated debut, and he didn't disappoint.
He finished with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field and grabbed four rebounds in 24 minutes.
"I was just excited, that's it," Said Yurtseven. "Anxiety, that gets you down. If I was getting anxious it would happen in the nine games.
"I knew that I wasn't going to start because it was my first game, but as I said, it felt really good once I stepped on the court."
What did Yurtseven's head coach think of his performance?
"I thought Omer did really well," said Gottfried. "Like every player I like to go home and watch the tape, dissect it like a frog, but he did good. He could rebound a little bit better. I liked the fact that he hit the three. He just needs to get comfortable. He had 12 points. The more he plays... learns how to defend here in the United States, I think the sky is the limit."
NC State still had some issues with defensive rebounding, although not to the degree as against Tennessee State. The Wolfpack yielded 14 offensive rebounds to App State, including five "team" offensive rebounds.
The Mountaineers converted those second-chance opportunities into 14 points. With that being said, the Wolfpack forced 52 missed field goals, so there were plenty of opportunities for offensive rebounds. By comparison, NC State missed just 27 shots.
+/- is the points scored by a team minus the points allowed by a team while a certain player is on the floor.
Dennis Smith Jr.: +35
Abdul-Malik Abu: +30
Terry Henderson: +30
BeeJay Anya: +27
Maverick Rowan: +19
Torin Dorn Jr.: +15
Ted Kapita: +6
Darius Hicks: +3
Shaun Kirk: +1
Omer Yurtseven: -2
Markell Johnson: -5
STAT OF THE GAME
NC State held App State to 31.6% shooting, the second-lowest the Mountaineers shot all season. This performance is after limiting Tennessee State to their worst shooting percentage of the season.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Dennis Smith: 22 points, six assists, three steals, four turnovers, and two rebounds in 26 minutes on 5-of-8 shooting from the field and 11-of-12 shooting from the free throw line
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"My message for Omer was to relax. He was excited today, you could tell. He was so excited that he had his warmup shirt on and forgot to put his jersey on underneath his warmup. He had to do that on the bench. He was excited. He's a young guy who has wanted to play college football for a long time." -- Mark Gottfried