What is it with NC State vs Miami games? Two sports. Two overtimes. Two Wolfpack victories!
Before NC State stepped on the court tonight the Wolfpack’s triumvirate of early season Big East victims were generating some major progress for our future NCAA Tournament resume as Villanova won at Syracuse, Seton Hall defeated Louisville and Cincinnati upset Top 20 ranked Pittsburgh. (Did anyone mention that Carolina was knocked from their perch by Maryland?).
State started today at #50 in the RPI and climbed a few spots before tonight’s game in the RBC Center even tipped. By the end of the evening the Wolfpack sits at #36 in the RPI having played the 44th toughest schedule in America and having won five games against Top 100 opponents.
The Charlotte Observer is going to really hate this one. After a couple of weeks of odd coverage and inexplicable comments from a sophomoric staff they aren’t going to know what to do after such a character-filled win by the Wolfpack.
Now some important points to make about tonight –
* Let me make one point very clear — Coach Lowe’s offensive genius was responsible for the JJ Hickson tip to tie with just seconds to go in overtime. If you go back and watch the play, you will see that it was designed for Gavin Grant to take that lane to the hole and Hickson to circle through behind Grant in case of a miss. Grant got hacked without getting a call from the official and Hickson timed his roll through the lane perfectly. How ironic that State wins the game because of two things that we do so poorly – rebound and create turnovers.
* How awesome is Gavin Grant? How much are we going to miss him next year?
* It was a classic, old-school day in ACC Basketball as kids all through the state and the region were stuck inside due to bad weather and had the opportunity to watch back to back to back to back ACC games that they will remember for a LONG TIME. Today was vintage.
* From the first possession tonight we saw a totally different Wolfpack team on offense. This team played with energy and was sharp and crisp while playing with focus. Speaking of focus…when Courtney Fells is focused he is an excellent college basketball player. With Grant’s departure at the end of this season I hope Fells can continue to step up to carry the load as our primary player on the wing.
* What I am about to say is actually pretty sad, but unfortunately true — I think tonight’s win over Miami may have represented the most exciting win in ESA/RBC Center history. Last year’s win over Carolina clearly ranks as the “best” win by nature of their national ranking, the style & excitement in which the game was played and the fact that it was Carolina. But, tonight’s win at the buzzer bests anything else that I can remember in the RBC. Others that immediately come to mind would be Justin Gainey’s shot to beat Maryland and the ESA’s opening night against Georgia.
* Who is responsible for teaching the NC State big men how to play defense and block out to rebound. And, what is the problem? As much as Jack “Tookie Williams” McClinton hurt State in the second half, the only reason Miami was even in the game was their ability to score at will from the low post on and on offensive rebounding. The reason the Hurricanes were able to get the ball inside is because our big men don’t play defense. Standing behind the offensive player on the block so that his receipt of the ball is a given is NOT defense. Tracy Smith seems to be the only NC State post player who understands how to front a man down low. After Miami’s bigs were the willing recipients of easy entry passes, they then were able to score easily because we continue to choose not to double down on the ball in the post. It is a recipe for disaster.
* Coach Lowe seems to have settled into his rotational preference for substitutions and Tracy Smith’s hard work on defense is earning him some of Brandon Costner’s time.
* Javi Gonazlez is showing the shooting stroke to which the coaches were originally attracted and have been swearing that he possessed. If he can step up and nail a couple of threes a game then State’s offense suddenly opens up more and can become much more effective.
* Marques Johnson cannot shoot. He knows that he cannot shoot and therefore he doesn’t shoot. He does a lot of things well to have only played in a handful of college games, but he has no confidence in his shot and he is a liability if the opposing team plays zone against us.
* Both point guards have GOT to step in about 5 to 7 feet to run the offense. Our offense continues to start WAY too far away from the basket.
* Miami’s football team may be working hard for a better image, but their basketball program sure feels ‘rough’.
* I was initially fearful when I saw friggin Jason Capel was going to be announcing this game, but Capel (and Steve Martin) actually did a fine job of announcing until they stumbled through the ‘Anthony King foul’ at the end of overtime.
* Did you notice that, despite playing great offense in the first half that Brandon Costner was nowhere to be seen in most of the second half and overtime? Something is going on there. I watched Costner a lot tonight and despite his offensive proficiency he was caught flat footed on rebounds and defense. I don’t know if it was lazy or if his mind is somewhere else. We can only speculate that Tracy Smith and Ben McCauley‘s willingness to do both elevated them to Costner’s time tonight. Additionally, I think Miami’s athleticism was a little much for him.
* Speaking of Big Ben McCauley, how about a shout out for his guts while playing injured tonight. Do not underestimate McCauley’s impact on our defensive rebounding late the game.
* Coach Lowe is now 1-1 against Miami avenging last year’s egg that was laid in Coral Gables late in the season.