Here are some thoughts and observations from NC State's 99-78 win over Fairfield at PNC Arena Sunday, which improved the Wolfpack to 9-2 on the season.
NC State was always expected to have a potent offense this season. It has been a process and there have been ups and downs but it looks like the Wolfpack has begun to sort things. There is more room for growth as well.
With two near 100-point efforts in the last two games NC State seems to be more fluid with the complete arsenal of players. The Wolfpack clearly was not playing ACC-caliber competition but the month of December was always about building up steam heading towards the New Year's Day conference opener at Miami.
Critics will contend that the schools NC State have defeated in the last two games, along with the next two opponents (McNeese State and Rider) are hardly worth getting excited over. Time will tell but the Wolfpack can only play the teams on its schedule and there is less than two weeks before the games will all be meaningful and no longer easy regardless of perception.
Terry Henderson is not only becoming a vital cog in NC State's lineup, he is also looking like one of the better players in the ACC.
He did it again versus the Stags. Henderson finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 32 minutes Sunday. The senior was 7-of-13 from the floor and 6-of-10 from three-point range.
Will Henderson continue his fine play when ACC season starts? Again, time will tell. He has scored at least 20 points in five games this season and finished with 19 in another. The Raleigh-native is finally getting extended time on the court with his hometown school and he is making the most of it.
NC State drilled 13-of-25 shots from behind the arch against Fairfield. This is a stark contrast to early in the season when the Wolfpack not only was less successful from three-point range but did not try to include the weapon in its offense. The penetration and kick out pass will be there with guys like Dennis Smith Jr. and Markell Johnson. Having guys that can spot and shoot from 20 feet will make the Pack a tough team to beat.
It remains to be seen if the effort against Fairfield was the start of something or an aberration but NC State outrebounded the Stags 45-30. Abdul-Malik Abu had a stat line that was more in tune with what people would expect, finishing with 14 points and nine rebounds. Henderson's seven boards meant he was that one wing player the Wolfpack will likely need to haul in some rebounds to keep the team from getting crushed inside. Typically that has been Torin Dorn's job this season but Mark Gottfried will be happy to know others can pick up the slack too.
The Wolfpack finished with 15 turnovers against Fairfield. The total was a little high. NC State had two players, Smith and Abu, who finished with four each -- although to be fair the duo both had one of their better games in other areas. The Pack was efficient despite being a little loose with the ball, which leads one to wonder what the offense potentially could be with a game of 10 or less turnovers.
+/- is the points scored by a team minus the points allowed by a team while a certain player is on the floor.
Smith Jr.: +29
Dorn Jr.: +13
Corchiani Jr.: -5
STAT OF THE GAME
NC State: 13-of-25 three-point field goals (52 percent), 18-of-23 free throws (78.3%)
Fairfield: 11-of-42 three-point field goals (26.2 percent), 17-of-17 free throws (100%)
NC State made more three-pointers than Fairfield despite shooting nearly half as many attempts. The Wolfpack also made one more free throw than the Stags, which effectively offset the fact that Fairfield made every free throw try.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Terry Henderson: The senior finished with 25 points (7-of-13 FG, 6-of-10 3FG, 5-of-6 FT), seven rebounds and three assists in 32 minutes.
Henderson now averages 17.4 points per game this season. He is shooting 47.2 percent (58-of-123) from the floor, 41.3 percent (31-of-75) from three-point range and 78.6 percent (44-of-56) from the free throw line.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"Everybody has played with each other already and everybody knows what we expect of each other. As long as we hold each other accountable, we should be fine." -- Terry Henderson