NC STATE BASKETBALL
Jacey Zembal (TheWolfpacker.com)
Lorenzo Brown, Tyler Lewis to share backcourt duties
Does freshman point guard Tyler Lewis’ role change with Lorenzo Brown back?
“I think so. I think he earned the right to play. He’s been very reliable. He’s played pretty effective. We obviously need all of our guys. We only have eight scholarship guys. They all need to contribute and play. I think Tyler has earned the right to play.”
Did winning a close game at Clemson change the mindset of the team in close games moving forward?
“I’m not sure because I think our team is pretty confident. We had two games where I don’t want to say a freak play, but it was a tip in with less than one second twice [at Maryland, vs. Miami] or 0.9 [seconds]. Sometimes, it is just the way the ball bounces. I don’t know if we had a lack of confidence, but certainly, when you win, that probably helps. I’m not sure that is that big of a deal.”
Is there a key in working Lorenzo Brown back into the lineup?
“I think it is just adjusting, and as I mentioned before, Tyler played so well when he was out that I don’t want to put Tyler back on the bench and play 4-to-8 minutes a game again. He has proven that he can help us some.
“You want to get Rodney [Purvis] and T.J. [Warren] playing very well, and Jordan [Vandenberg] off the bench sometimes, and also Tyler. We just need to put that together.”
Is Brown comfortable going back to playing off the ball at times?
“He’s a point guard, but there is nothing wrong with having two point guards on the floor at the same time because Lorenzo can score. There are some things you gain on the break, those type of things. We’ll just kind of see as we move forward. I think they can play together very nicely.”
Matt Carter (TheWolfpacker.com)
Quick hits from NC State’s win over Clemson
Wood for three
Wood started his 125th career game Saturday, tying the legendary Julius Hodge for the most career starts in a Wolfpack uniform. Wood finished the game going 3 of 9 from three-point territory, and NCSU improved to 37-14 all-time when Wood makes at least three treys in a game.
Wood has now made 293 three-pointers in his career, which puts him 29 behind Rodney Monroe for the most ever at NC State. With seven regular season games left and at least one more in the ACC Tournament, if the Pack only played those eight contests, Wood would need to average 3.7 made threes a game to break Monroe’s record. Wood is averaging 2.6 threes a game thus far this year.
What the win means
NC State snapped its three-game losing streak and improved to 17-7 overall and got back above .500 in the ACC at 6-5.
That’s important because it put the Pack in sole place for fifth in the ACC, just one-half game behind UNC, who is 6-4. The Heels though will likely be heavy underdogs at Duke Wednesday evening. A loss there would drop UNC into a fourth place tie with NC State, and the Pack currently have the tiebreaker on the Heels for what would be a first-round ACC Tournament bye.
Clemson fell to 12-11 overall and 4-7 in the league. The Tigers are in a tie with Wake Forest for eighth place. Clemson beat Wake Forest at home earlier this year so they have the tiebreaker over the Deacs, but that’s relatively inconsequential if the ACC Tournament was held today since the two teams would play each other in the first round.
The Pack swept the season series with Clemson for the first time since 2003 and improved to 99-48 all-time against the Tigers. State is 32-30 all-time at Clemson but just 17-24 in Littlejohn. NC State snapped a four-game losing streak at the venue and won for the first time there since 2006.
This was State’s first win in February this year.
Akula Wolf (BackingthePack.com)
Tyler Lewis Steps Into The Limelight
While he was just 1-5 from three in those games, he made half his two-point attempts and 13 of 14 free throws while dishing out 13 assists against one turnover. There is nothing more that State could have asked of Lewis, and again, it’s a shame that the Pack doesn’t have any wins to show for those efforts.
What is encouraging is that someone who appeared to be a major liability is getting more confident and displaying an as-yet unseen level of effectiveness as we near crunch time. It seems like we’re getting the real Tyler Lewis for the first time–that kid with deceptive quickness and a good mid-range game. And this is only going to help going forward, because it takes pressure off Lorenzo Brown.
Brett Friedlander (starnewsonline.com)
BEYOND THE ARC: Improving ACC turning up the Heat
1. Brownout over: Scott Wood got all the headlines for his game-winning 3-pointer with one second left at Clemson on Sunday, but N.C. State would never have been in position for the victory if not for the return of Lorenzo Brown. The junior point guard had 15 points, four rebounds and four assists – including one on Wood’s game-winner to break the Wolfpack’s three-game losing streak. It’s no coincidence that Brown missed at least part of all three of those games with a sprained ankle.
2. Another blue beatdown: Miami put on a show for LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, who were sitting in the front row, by hitting 15 3-pointers and demolishing North Carolina 87-61 Saturday. Combined with an 80-63 beatdown of Duke two weeks earlier, the Hurricanes became the first ACC team ever to beat the Tar Heels and Blue Devils by 25 or more points in the same season. After going 5-33 in its first 38 meetings with UNC and Duke, Miami is 3-0 against them this season.
2. Last-possession no-calls: It’s ironic that John Clougherty is the ACC’s director of officials, since he is best known for calling a foul in the final seconds of an overtime national championship game. Apparently, his current officials haven’t grasped the concept that if it’s a foul in the first 39 minutes, 55 seconds of a game, it’s still a foul in the final five seconds. Last week, they allowed Miami’s Reggie Johnson to shove N.C. State’s Richard Howell out of the way for the game-winning tip-in. Tuesday, they swallowed their whistles again as FSU’s Michael Snaer clearly shoved Georgia Tech’s Mfon Udofia out of the way to set up his winning drive at the buzzer. So much for letting the players decide the game.
3. Green out of gas: The weight of carrying Virginia Tech’s offense on his shoulders appears to be taking its toll on Erick Green. The nation’s leading scorer had to come out of Saturday’s 64-54 loss at Georgia Tech with 31 seconds remaining, then get helped to the locker room for what was described as dehydration. He still finished with 28 points.
5. Poor sportsmanship: Duke’s Cameron Crazies are famous for their creative chants at opposing players. But if, as has been reported, anyone in the crowd taunted N.C. State freshman Tyler Lewis about his recently deceased grandmother, that’s crossing the line. It’s also over the top to show up an opponent by throwing alley-oop passes off the backboard as Miami did against UNC on Saturday. I understand that “they’re just kids having fun” and in the Hurricanes’ case, were trying to put on a show for the celebrities in attendance, but seriously, what ever happened to sportsmanship and winning with class?
DEVELOPMENT OF THE WEEK
This might come as a surprise to those who insist that ACC basketball is at a historic low this season, but a peek at both the current national polls and RPI ranks suggest otherwise. Not only are Duke and Miami now No. 2 and No. 3 in the nation according to the media and the coaches, but the computer at RPI has the ACC rated No. 1 among all college conferences with ranking of 2.9. That’s slightly better than the Big Ten, and pretty darn good for a league that’s supposed to be down.
Lauren Brownlow (accsports.com)
Three To Look Back At/Three To Look Forward To, Feb. 11
Duke 98, N.C. State 85
It might seem like it was a defense-optional game. At times, it was. But give credit to both Duke and N.C. State’s offenses, too: both teams shot 53% (Duke a tick better at 53.8%) and combined for 30 assists and just 15 turnovers. God forbid we have some scoring in ACC basketball. Just sayin’, other teams.
Duke came out red-hot, taking a 21-point lead into halftime. (Duke and N.C. State combined to shoot 63.3% on Duke’s first-half basket and 43.1% on N.C. State’s first-half basket. Hmm.) It looked like the Blue Devils would cruise when they went up by 22 with 16:18 to go, but N.C. State missed just 10 second-half shots and cut the deficit to nine a few times late. But the hole it dug for itself was just too big, and the Pack couldn’t get enough stops. It was N.C. State’s third loss in a row, and Duke’s fourth straight win.
Special shoutout: Mason Plumlee
He put on a clinic against the Wolfpack with 30 points on 9-of-11 shooting (12-of-16 from the foul line), adding a team-high nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks. In 40 minutes. He completely dominated N.C. State’s C.J. Leslie, scoring seemingly at will on him, and helped limit Leslie’s post touches. Also, N.C. State’s entire front line fouled out. So there’s that. Plumlee has two 30-point games in the last four, and is averaging 21.6 points on 75.5% shooting since the blowout loss at Miami. With Virginia Tech’s Erick Green fading a bit (literally, as he had dehydration issues against Georgia Tech), Plumlee looks like the likely ACC Player of the Year again after a brief dip in productivity.
N.C. State 58, Clemson 57
Boy, did N.C. State need this one badly. The Wolfpack had lost three straight and four of its last five, and many of its losses were of the heartbreaking variety. It took N.C. State over 11 minutes to crack 10 points, and Clemson led by 12 in the first half. N.C. State was able to cut it to six by halftime, and Clemson’s own offensive struggles meant it couldn’t pull away. The Tigers led by four with 19 seconds left, but N.C. State’s Lorenzo Brown (in his first game back off an ankle injury) hit two free throws, then Clemson’s Milton Jennings missed the front end of a one-and-one and Brown found Scott Wood for a game-winning three-pointer with two seconds left. GAMEDAY BUCKET GO BOOM! (That was for you, Hayes Permar.)
Special shoutout: Richard Howell
Just another day at the office for Richard Howell. He only had 14 of N.C. State’s 32 second-half points (on 6-of-10 shooting: his teammates were 7-of-22) and seven of its 17 rebounds. No big deal. He had eight of N.C. State’s 12 points during a three-minute stretch when Clemson was threatening to pull away. Howell would finish with 16 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and four steals in 37 minutes. He was visibly tired as the game wore on, but he fought through it and as usual, gave N.C. State absolutely everything he had. It’s a big reason everyone from Coach K to the local media gush over the senior big man. And why he might just end up on First Team All-ACC if he keeps this up.
Stephen Schramm (FayObserver.com)
ACC Power Rankings: Miami, Duke on collision course; Bubble talk begins
1. Miami (19-3, 10-0)
Last week: 1
My take: Let’s talk about Florida Gulf Coast.
Ok, so Miami lost to the Eagles – the Atlantic Sun Conference leading Eagles, mind you – back on Nov. 13. Back then, Manti Te’o had a girlfriend, nobody named winter storms and there were still a few Romney signs in my neighborhood. In other words, it was a long, long time ago. In college basketball time, the three months between November and February can be an eternity. So let’s not get carried away.
And there’s also the little detail of who the Hurricanes didn’t have. Senior guard Durand Scott – the team’s leading scorer – was suspended for that game for taking impermissible benefits. North Carolina lost its season opener in the 2004-05 season to Santa Clara. The Tar Heels’ starting point guard Raymond Felton was suspended for that game too. Folks at the time had no trouble essentially striking that game from the record.
With Miami playing as well as anybody in the country, maybe it deserves the same courtesy.
2. Duke (21-2, 8-2)
Last week: 2
My take: Boy, Duke sure did look scary against N.C. State.
Boy, Duke sure did look vulnerable against Boston College.
If you’re North Carolina, which faces the Blue Devils on Wednesday, you’d better prepare for the former and hope for the latter.
3. N.C. State (17-7, 6-5)
Last week: 3
My take: I’m still convinced that, come March, N.C. State will be a pain in the rear for most every team it faces. I could easily see the Wolfpack make a run past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. Of course, it just had to be sure to get into the thing first.
4. Virginia (17-6, 7-3)
Last week: 5
My take: And now we reach the portion of the league for which NCAA tournament bubble talk is a reality. Virginia’s strength of schedule isn’t the strongest and a loss to Delaware (12-12, 151st in the RPI) does not help.
12. Virginia Tech (11-12, 2-8)
Last week: 11
My take: There was a point earlier this season when Virginia Tech was undefeated and you could make a case that it was the third-best team in the league. (Remember what I said earlier about college basketball time?)
Since beating No. 17 Oklahoma State on Dec. 1, the Hokies have gone 4-12. Two of those wins have been in overtime and another was by a point.
Andrew Jones (FoxSportsCarolinas.com)
ACC Power Rankings: Miami stays dominant
1. Miami (19-3, 10-0)
The Hurricanes should be ranked No. 1 in the nation. Nobody else is playing as well after wins at home over Boston College and North Carolina. And forget their losses without starters at Florida Gulf Coast, which leads its league, and in overtime to Indiana State, which leads the Missouri Valley Conference, and Arizona in Hawaii. Sophomore point guard Shane Larkin might be the new front-runner for ACC Player of the Year.
2. Duke (21-2, 8-2)
Sunday’s 62-61 victory at Boston College was a survive-and-advance type of game. The Blue Devils gutted out the victory, though they didn’t play as well as expected. An impressive home win over NC State started the week. Duke may climb to No. 1 in the national polls for the third time this season, but the Blue Devils aren’t the best team in the country.
3. Virginia (17-6, 6-3)
The Cavaliers had a great week, first blowing out Clemson by 37 points and then winning 80-69 at Maryland in a game they controlled all the way. The Cavaliers jumped two spots this week and now just need to avoid a late meltdown or awful loss the rest of the way and they will get into the NCAA Tournament.
4. NC State (17-6, 6-4)
The Wolfpack would love to have rolled over Clemson in Littlejohn, but having to grind out a victory and get a game-winner drawn up by coach Mark Gottfried may have been the best way to end a three-game losing streak and perhaps right the ship. NC State was throttled at Duke before slowly cutting into the margin in the second half earlier in the week. The Wolfpack badly needed that win versus the Tigers.
12. Virginia Tech (11-12, 2-8)
The Hokies have dropped six consecutive games, including two this past week at home to Virginia and Georgia Tech. The 22-point first-half hole, which in part was because the Hokies converted just three shots in the first 17 minutes, was a scary bad display of hoops.
Andrew Jones (FoxSportsCarolinas.com)
NCAA Tourney? UNC doesn’t pass ‘eye test’
North Carolina’s best road win occurred against No. 65 Florida State, which was routed by 25 points at Wake Forest last weekend.
After next week, Carolina also gets No. 17 N.C. State, FSU and No. 1 Duke at home and travels to Maryland (73rd). Dangerous games at Georgia Tech and Clemson also loom.
The Tar Heels have enough talent to get through the slate and earn a decent seed in the NCAA tournament, but the likelihood of going far is remote. This is a difficult reality for a program that has reached the Elite 8 (or deeper) in its last five NCAA tourneys.
So, how did North Carolina get to this point?
The Tar Heels’ issues have been well documented: They have no post presence of any significance and haven’t received consistent ACC-caliber help at point guard.
Freshman point guard Marcus Paige is improving, but his deficiencies have stagnated the offense at times. On defense, he has also been overmatched.
If you aren’t effective in the post and have major point guard issues, you won’t win in college basketball. As a result, when stripping away the baby blue uniforms and lettering on their chests … based on its performances, especially on the road against quality opponents, UNC fails the eye test.
Carolina trailed Butler by as many as 29 points in Hawaii, lost at Indiana by 24 (trailed by 31), lost at 10-13 Texas by 18, trailed by 28 at N.C. State, and got drubbed at Miami by 26 points last weekend.
Williams has been able to mask some of the weaknesses enough to get by lesser foes, but UNC has been no match for the better clubs in the nation.
Is there a possible remedy?
Williams hates being asked about regrets, and loves to invoke comments about wanting to win more in his pinky than the entire fan base does. Williams is ultra-competitive, and would undoubtedly kick over every stone for the right lineup combinations.
The Hall of Fame coach is also supremely loyal to his players, especially older ones, and can be extremely stubborn, too. Often, loyalty and stubbornness go hand in hand.
In the grand scheme of things, there’s no player grouping or rotation that would have given UNC a chance to beat Miami, Indiana or Butler. And against N.C. State, the Tar Heels only sliced the deficit to five in the final minute. But, perhaps cutting the cord to what hasn’t been working can enhance Carolina’s chances of making the NCAAs and avoiding an embarrassing trip to the NIT.
Weekly Mark Gottfried TV Show
On this week’s episode, head men’s basketball coach Mark Gottfried breaks down the Clemson and Duke games with host Tony Haynes. Also on the show, Mark Thomas visits with freshman forward T.J. Warren.