NC STATE BASKETBALL
Bret Strelow (FayObserver.com)
Wolfpack need to shake off slump
N.C. State headed to Clemson last season with hopes of ending an untimely three-game losing streak.
The Wolfpack faces the same predicament this weekend. And it can’t afford another loss at Littlejohn Coliseum.
N.C. State, the ACC preseason favorite, fell to .500 in the league Thursday, when Duke rolled to a 98-85 home victory. Since beating North Carolina on Jan. 26, the Wolfpack (16-7, 5-5) have dropped consecutive games against Virginia, Miami and the Blue Devils.
The next test is a game at Clemson on Sunday afternoon.
“We’re not going to look at pitches,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “We’re going to keep swinging. I think they feel confident that we can be a great team here down the stretch.”
The Wolfpack snuck into the NCAA tournament last year despite struggling down the stretch. It was 7-3 in the ACC before losing four straight games, starting with a 78-73 setback in which Duke erased a second-half deficit of 20 points at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Florida State and North Carolina defeated N.C. State before it lost in overtime at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Laura Keeley (N&O)
Duke starts fast, holds off of NC State 98-85
The first time Duke faced N.C. State, the Blue Devils were beginning their search for a new offensive identity.
It was clear Thursday night that they have found it, especially early in the game, as the first-half cushion they built didnâ€™t run out in a 98-85 win. But the Wolfpack came close late in the game, making Duke work until the final minute.
â€œI donâ€™t know how you couldnâ€™t be proud of both teams tonight,â€ Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. â€œThat was great ACC basketball.â€
Each team traded outstanding shooting halves, as Duke shot 61.3 percent from the field in the first half and led 58-37. N.C. State responded with a 65.5 percent performance to make the game interesting late.
Trailing by 21 points and missing point guard Lorenzo Brown due to a left ankle injury, N.C. State came out strong in the second half. The Wolfpack hit 12 of its first 14 shots, closing the deficit to 12, 78-66, with 9:21 remaining on the clock.
But Richard Howell, who dominated the first matchup, was whistled for his fourth foul on the next possession.
â€œWhen a team is in foul trouble, itâ€™s just kind of like you smell blood, and you just keep going at them,â€ Mason Plumlee said. â€œWhen guys are playing not to foul, it makes them susceptible to a lot of things.â€
Plumlee finished with a game-high 30 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field andâ€”in an especially positive developmentâ€”12-of-16 shooting from the free throw line. Duke ran several isolation plays designed to get Plumlee the ball in the second half, and he was able to post up both Howell and Leslie.
Luke DeCock (N&O)
Curry assures reversal of fortunes
Brett Friedlander (starnewsonline.com)
Duke is back â€¦ now itâ€™s Stateâ€™s turn to regroup and rebound
â€œTheyâ€™ve done a great job,â€ Gottfried said. â€œI donâ€™t know weâ€™ll use that as an example, but our guys know. They believe in our team.
â€œWe just need to keep swinging the bat. Weâ€™re not just going to stand at the plate and look at pitches. Weâ€™re going to keep swinging. I think they feel confident they can be a great team down the stretch.â€
While that is yet to be seen, State (16-7, 5-5 ACC) figures to be a deeper, more diverse team in the long run as a result of its recent downturn.
Backup point guard Tyler Lewis was once again the silver lining in the dark cloud of a Wolfpack loss by following up his impressive performance against Miami last weekend by contributing 13 points, six assists and no turnovers in his first career start.
In the ACCâ€™s most hostile environment, no less.
But neither that nor the fact that State battled back to whittle a 22-point deficit down to eight in the final two minutes behind some inspired play by center Richard Howell, is any consolation for a team that is clearly battling itself right now as much as it is the opposition. And things wonâ€™t get any easier Sunday when the Wolfpack goes to Clemson, a place it has traditionally struggled.
â€œWeâ€™ve just got to stay together, thatâ€™s the main thing,â€ said senior forward Scott Wood, who tweaked his groin during the first half Thursday. â€œSitting at 5-5, itâ€™s not a great place to be. But youâ€™ve just got to look at the things you as an individual can do better and make sure we stay together as a team.â€
Akula Wolf (BackingthePack.com)
Bad First Half Dooms NC State In Durham
Scoring 1.21 points per possession should be enough to win on the vast majority of occasions–it should be enough to win by quite a lot in most instances. But there are always outliers like this, and NC State got totally buried by an incredible first-half shooting performance by the Blue Devils. It’s tough to overcome a barrage of 10 three-pointers in one half, and Duke finished the first 20 minutes with an effective field goal percentage north of 77.0.
The second half was almost a complete reversal from a shooting percentage perspective, and State outscored Duke 48-40, but the thing that allowed the Blue Devils to stay at arm’s length was its ability to get to the line–they shot 28 free throws, 22 of which they made, in the second half. They made just nine field goals over the final 20 minutes, none of which were threes, and they were still able to win comfortably thanks to that huge advantage at the free throw line.
Jacey Zembal (TheWolfpacker.com)
First half barrage buries NC State
“We didn’t match that intensity at the beginning of the game,” said NCSU senior wing Scott Wood, who played with a groin injury during the second half. “We let Curry and Plumlee get going, which you can’t do when you play against them.”
Plumlee scored 15 points in each half, and lived at the free-throw line, going 12 of 16 in helping foul out NC State senior center Richard Howell and junior power forward C.J. Leslie.
Howell picked up two fouls and went to the bench with 14:07 left in the first half, making it even easier for Plumlee to work on the interior. Howell bounced back in the second half and carried NC State. He knocked in an array of mid-range jumpers and worked hard around the basket for a team-high 23 points and nine rebounds.
“I thought he [Howell] was really good and Plumlee played off him a little bit,” Gottfried said. “He respected his ability to bounce it once or twice. He made a lot of jump shots. He rebounds like he does every night.”
Leslie also found his offensive rhythm in the second half, scoring nine of his 16 points to form a strong one-two punch with Howell. NC State shot an impressive 19 of 29 for 65.5 percent after halftime.
“Howell is the unsung great player in our league,” Krzyzewski said. “He can play for anybody. He puts up amazing efficient numbers.”
NC State’s perimeter defense also improved after halftime. Duke went 0 for 7 in the second half, but the damage was done.
“We just weren’t chasing them [in the first half],” Wood said. “We said all practice that we have to chase them. We can’t try and run over the screens, which we got caught on a couple of times, and they made us pay for it.
“Any time they run those baseline screens and you don’t chase them, you are in a world of hurt.”
Gottfried: Need to build on positives
NC State head coach Mark Gottfried said the team needs to build on some of the positives and make sure they are getting better.
Leslie: We have to fight a little harder
NC State’s CJ Leslie said the team needs to fight a little harder than they did against Duke.
Howell: We didn’t come out with intensity
NC State’s Richard Howell said the team didn’t come out with intensity against Duke.
Lewis: Seemed like they couldn’t miss
NC State’s Tyler Lewis said it seemed like the Duke team couldn’t miss Thursday night.
Wood: We have to stay together
NC State’s Scott Wood said the team needs to stay together following their loss to Duke Thursday.