Bret Strelow (fayobserver.com)
N.C. State vs. Oklahoma State: Three to know about the Puerto Rico Tip-Off final
Oklahoma State (3-0) vs. N.C. State (3-0), Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN2
2. Breaking down the opponent
Oklahoma State reached the Puerto Rico Tip-Off final by holding Tennessee to 29.2 percent shooting and a 5-for-23 effort from 3-point range in a 62-45 semifinal win against Tennessee.
The Cowboys’ top players are 6-foot-4 guard Marcus Smart, who played with N.C. State’s three freshmen in the McDonald’s All-American game, and 6-7 sophomore Le’Bryan Nash, who averages 17.7 points. Smart averages 13.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.7 steals.
North Carolina offered a scholarship to Smart, who played his high school basketball in Texas and was ranked the No. 10 prospect in the Class of 2012 by ESPN.com. Representing the United States this summer at the FIBA Americas U18 Championships in Brazil, Smart averaged 7.4 points with 4.0 assists as a starter and drew high praise from coach Billy Donovan. N.C. State freshman Rodney Purvis averaged 7.0 points per game in that event.
Oklahoma State and N.C. State have met once: in the second round of the 1991 NCAA tournament. The Cowboys won 73-64 to end the careers of Chris Corchiani and Rodney Monroe, and the Wolfpack didn’t return to the tournament until 2002.
Joe Giglio (N&O)
When Wood makes 3s, Wolfpack wins
Wood made five 3-pointers in the Wolfpack’s 94-76 win over UMass to advance to Sunday’s championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The Wolfpack will try to get Wood loose against Oklahoma State (3-0), which like UMass, will play an up-tempo game against the sixth-ranked Wolfpack.
Wood’s performance from the 3-point line has been a canary in the coal mine for the Wolfpack since the start of last season. When Wood makes at least four 3-pointers, State wins. It happened 10 times last season and it held form Friday with Wood making four 3s in the first half.
Wood doesn’t like to talk about that particular stat but he understands his importance to N.C. State’s success.
“I’m sure it helps,” Wood said of the 3-point success. “The big thing for me is I just have to work harder to find my shot. When I settle and let guys defend me, that’s when I get in trouble.”
Oklahoma St.-NC State Preview
“Our team is developing, learning and getting a little bit better with each day and (Friday) was a good step,” said coach Mark Gottfried, whose team went 8 of 18 from long range. “Scott is smart enough to figure out what he needed to do to get good shots and he hit some 3s. T.J. was good for us off the bench.
“We had a lot of guys playing well.”
Warren is playing 28.3 minutes per game, but he’s yet to make his first collegiate start. It doesn’t seem to bother him any, though, waiting his turn behind frontcourt starters Wood, Howell and junior C.J. Leslie.
“Everybody was making shots,” said Warren, who helped contribute to the team’s 56.5 percent shooting Friday. “I’m glad the older guys finally got into it and were making shots. I’m happy for them.”
He’ll look to help the Wolfpack — shooting 56.1 percent overall — open 4-0 for the first time since 2009 by knocking off Oklahoma State, which routed Tennessee 62-45 on Friday to reach the title game.
The Cowboys (3-0) didn’t look impressive in their 73-65 win over UC Davis on Nov. 9 nor their 69-65 overtime victory against Akron in the first round of this tournament Thursday.
Oklahoma State did shoot a season-best 41.9 percent in Friday’s victory.
The only meeting between the teams came in the second round of the 1991 NCAA tournament, when third-seeded Oklahoma State beat No. 6 seed N.C. State 73-64.
Patrick Kinas (WRALSportsfan.com)
Wolfpack dispatch from Puerto Rico
When you have the great fortune of traveling with college basketball teams, it’s hard to convey to those who don’t work in athletics, what a 5-and-a-half day trip outside the country is really like. I’ll try to provide a little insight into the experience of what San Juan, Puerto Rico has been like for those of us traveling with the No. 6 NC State Wolfpack.
First off, the travel is not like anything that I experienced with my family as a kid – jamming the Volkswagen hatchback with luggage stacked to the roof, and four kids stacked on top of one another like a game of human Jenga. The Pack had a 100-seat charter plane awaiting the group of players, coaches, support staff, Wolfpack Club personnel and a contingent of NC State boosters who bought a package to accompany all of us in pursuit of a Puerto Rico title for the Pack.
When you take a trip such as this, the biggest misconception by the general public is that there’s a ton of free time to hit the beach, play some blackjack at the hotel casino, enjoy the nightlife, but it’s really not the case at all. The stress of the coaching staff to the players is to block out the bevy of distractions, becuase in the end, this is a business trip for a Wolfpack basketball team that has a real chance to accomplish special things this season. This is an early-season opportunity for Mark Gottfried to present the Wolfpack to the nation on ESPN, pick up three wins, strengthen non-conference RPI and begin to walk this team forward toward the conference season. So their focus is on resting, staying hydrated, and preparing for practice on Wednesday.
With the tournament starting for the Pack on Thursday night, Wednesday was one that was similar for the Pack if they were back in Raleigh – outside of not attending classes.
Team breakfast, taping and heading to a full practice at the Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon, PR, the tournament site this year. Interestingly enough, the previous five iterations of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off has been held at an arena in San Juan, but thanks to a mistake in scheduling, that arena was booked by Cirque de Soleil, which forced the relocation to a much sketchier area of the island.
At practice, a piece of the Durham Bulls appeared, with outfielder Jesus Feliciano stopping by during the Wolfpack’s practice to catch up with me. Feliciano was just beginning his new winter baseball season in his homeland that night. After practice ended, the team headed back to the hotel for a couple of free hours before a tournament banquet for the eight competing teams.
John Helsley (newsok.com)
Oklahoma State basketball: Le’Bryan Nash has flipped the effort switch in Puerto Rico
So far this season, and especially at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Nash has flipped the switch, a big reason Oklahoma State has advanced to Sunday’s championship game. With two wins behind them in Puerto Rico, the Cowboys face No. 6 North Carolina State at 5:30 p.m.
In tournament wins over Akron and Tennessee, Nash totaled 37 points and also engaged on the defensive end, where he’s even been asked to play the low post, due to injury and foul issues.
“He’s playing at a high intensity level,” said Cowboys coach Travis Ford.
And the Cowboys couldn’t need it any more, heading into a clash with one of the nation’s top teams, owning an opportunity to put a signature moment on a solid start, while securing a resume-building caliber win.
OSU keeps taking personnel hits, with Jéan-Paul Olukemi and Marek Soucek suffering injuries on this trip, joining starters Brian Williams and Michael Cobbins as unavailable.
NC State head coach Mark Gottfried announced on Saturday the signings of BeeJay Anya (Gaithersburg, Md.), Anthony Barber (Hampton, Va.) and Kyle Washington (Champlin, Minn.) to play for the Wolfpack, beginning with the 2013-14 season.
“The most important thing is we’ve filled the needs on our team,” Gottfried said. “We felt strongly we needed some interior players that can help us and we added a guard, that I think will be a very good player in our league as well. We’re excited about the guys that have chosen to join our program and we think they’re high-caliber players.”
For the second consecutive year, Gottfried has assembled a top 10 recruiting class, as the trio is ranked eighth by Scout.com and ninth nationally by ESPN.com. Last year’s class of Tyler Lewis, Rodney Purvis and T.J. Warren was ranked the No. 2 signing class by ESPN.
Here’s a look at the Wolfpack’s signing class: