Let’s Break it Down

Greetings from snowy and wet Apex, NC. I would have published this a bit earlier, but I was one of the unfortunate ones to lose power while the snow/rain mix rolled through last night. Alas, better late than never 🙂 . I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe and warm. Please exercise proper caution if you have to be out and about today. If you have time for  some snow day reading and can bear to stand my prose, I present to you a detailed look at NC State’s big win over the Cheats from Tuesday evening …

Well, that was fun!

Now that some time has passed and we’ve all had a chance to decompress and fall back down to earth along with the snowflakes, let’s take a more detailed look at NC State’s 58-46 win on Cheater Hill. The win is one of the best of the Mark Gottfried era, and it carries a special significance to a large contingent of State fans for myriad reasons. Winning against your rival, winning against your rival at their place, winning at your rival’s home for the first time in over a decade, and winning against your rival for the first time since their basketball program was truly brought into scandalous headlines are just a few of the reasons many State fans are overjoyed with Tuesday night’s result.

Gameplan

In the season’s first match-up with the Cheats – won by the bad guys 81-79 in Raleigh – the Pack fought hard and made a spirited, late rally only to fall just short. That said, it was unfortunately the Cheats’ game to lose throughout. They controlled the pace, the flow, the game. You couldn’t fault State’s effort – after all they outrebounded the Cheats 37-33, doubled them on offensive rebounds 18-9, and lastly, almost completed an improbable rally. Still, even with a fantastic effort level from the Pack, the Cheats were able to shoot 56% from the field, 5-8 from three, 16-23 from the line, and grab timely offensive rebounds – all of which culminated in 81 hard-to-beat points.

Marcus Paige – ever the State killer – would hit all 5 of the Cheats’ threes, going 5-5 from that distance and 6-9 overall en route to a 23 point night. More than that though, Paige was in complete control of the game – when he wasn’t hitting a dagger three he was setting up his teammates for easy scores either indirectly through ball movement and sets or directly so with assists. Paige would finish with 9 assists, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals to go along with his 23 points. Paige’s game management would help his frontcourt teammates combine for 37 points – 15 from Kennedy Meeks, 10 from Brice Johnson, and 12 huge points off the bench from Isaiah Hicks. It should also be noted that J.P. Tokoto was able to bother Trevor Lacey defensively in the game. Lacey was not shut down by any stretch, but he was bothered. This fact was clearly a source of pride for Tokoto and the Cheats heading into Tuesday night’s game, but pride goeth before a fall … we’ll revisit this point later.

So what would change for the Pack in Game #2? Was it just a simple matter of ‘bottle up Paige and don’t let him get the ball no matter what’? Well, yes and no. Given State’s history of Paige torturing them, it was clear something needed to be done at least a little differently this time around. Enter Cat Barber. Barber has been one of the best on-ball defenders in the country since he arrived at State. On Tuesday night, Barber was one of the best overall defenders in the country. Barber did not let Paige get shots off or drive the ball when Paige was handling it; moreover, Barber actively denied Paige the ball once it left his hands. Barber face-guarded and denied Paige the ball in one of the more beautiful defensive efforts from a State player that I’ve ever seen.

All that said, Paige can still be a highly effective game manager even without the scoring. While it wasn’t one of his finer games, Paige was still an effective court presence in the Cheats’ largely defense-optional 92-90 overtime loss to Top 5 Duke a week ago.  Would the same hold true against State on Tuesday night? Barber did his best ‘Grumpy Cat’ impersonation and simply said “No“.

Ok, well, the Cheats have other options aside from just Paige – right? Yes, they sure do. However with State limiting Paige’s role and ability to efficiently execute halfcourt offensive sets the Cheats were behind the proverbial 8-ball. What transpired was perimeter shots taken by Cheats players that State wanted to see shoot the ball, along with rushed, altered, or flat out blocked shots from the Cheats’ interior players by a tough-minded, bruising State interior defense anchored by Beejay Anya. Even when the Cheats were able to drive the ball in the halfcourt, they were often met by Anya’s ominous presence and either got swatted, turned the ball over, or a took a wild or poor shot. Anya finished with a game high 6 blocks – as many as the entire Cheats team. Perhaps more importantly, Anya controlled the paint without sending the Cheats to the free throw line.

Gottfried“We have a term called KYP… know your personnel. You have to know who they are. Even in the first game, there were times we’d close out to a guy that’s not a great shooter, we’re flying at him and then he’s driving by us.”

“Our message in this game was to stay with the plan in guarding certain guys certain ways. We did that tonight as well as we’ve done anytime this year.”

All that defensive effort is great, but it doesn’t mean a lot if you’re not truly disciplined and able to finish the possession with a rebound (sans turnover). No problem. The Pack limited the Cheats to 11 offensive rebounds – a few of those even very late when the game was essentially over – and grabbed 28 defensive rebounds from 36 total missed Cheat shots.

The result? The Cheats shot 35% on 19-55 shooting, shot a measly 3-12 from three, and got to the line for 9 total attempts – hitting 5. Those figures total up to … wait for it … 46 points. 46 points! In a game! At their home! 46! Look at them, look at them and laugh!

The stat line backs up State’s stunningly efficient defensive performance: Paige took 8 total shots, hitting 3. He took only one attempt in the first half. Justin Jackson took 17 shots. To his credit, Jackson was able to hit 7 of those attempts – but State will almost certainly take that trade off if it means Paige not shooting and Paige without the ball. The aforementioned Isaiah Hicks that buried State with 12 bench points in the first contest? Two points on three attempts. Brice Johnson: 4 points on 6 FG attempts and 3 FT attempts. Kennedy Meeks did have 12 points on 5-10 FG’s (2-4 FT’s), but he was constantly harried by the front line of Anya, Freeman, Abu, and Washington.

What an effort … but you’ve also got to be able to score – at least a little – in order to win. State didn’t do a whole lot on offense – they too shot just 35% for the game – but the real key lies in what they didn’t do on offense. They didn’t turn the ball over a ton, not allowing the Cheats to score a ton of free and easy points. They didn’t take a high number of no offense, early shot clock attempts, which often lead to runouts and easy transition scores for the opponent (which the Cheats excel at). They didn’t lose the game on offense.

What State did do for perhaps the first time all season is completely manage and control the game on both ends of the floor. What a sweet time to do that, too. Along with being the best defender on the court, Cat Barber was also the best game manager – controlling the tempo while slashing through the Cheats D at times. Ralston Turner hit clutch 3’s – four of them on only eight attempts. Trevor Lacey hit clutch jumpers and free throws and helped control the game. The big guys combined for just 10 points, but they played relentless D and grabbed big boards. The bench combined for another 10 points – all of them very timely.

The Pack ran down the shot clock on a large number of offensive possessions – I’m unsure if that was the true intent on each and every possession. I’m of the mind that they would take good shots when clearly available. What I am sure of is the message of limiting the opponent’s possessions and runouts by taking a good shot each time down, or barring that taking a shot or drive attempt late in the possession. Any way you cut it, State was able to score 58 points – enough to win gloriously by 12. How sweet it is.

Key Sequences

– Try not to laugh too hard at me, but a key sequence to me was the very opening of the game. We’ve all seen various past State teams get completely blitzed and overwhelmed at the tip of games on Cheater Hill – or at the very least the tone of which team would likely win the game was set that early. Not this time, not this team. For the first two minutes of this game, it looked like it could head down a familiar path: Cheats won the tip, hit a jumper. State wouldn’t score until the 17:52 mark, and in those two minutes suffered two missed shots, two blocked shots, and a turnover. What didn’t happen though is the Cheats getting out to a quick 6-0 or 8-0 lead and a collective ‘oh ****’ feeling setting in. Instead, State responded with the poise and composure it would display all night and then go about its ass-kicking business.

– Coming back from the under 4:00 minute media timeout of the first half it’s 24-16 State with 3:38 to play. The Pack has established control of the game, and set the tone for how the game will be played. Brice Johnson is on the line for two shots and hits both before being subbed out – making it 24-18. The Cheats wouldn’t score again in the half. Their five on the floor are Paige, Jackson, Tokoto, Hicks, and Joel James. Roy Williams gets angered with Jackson missing a rebound at the 2:31 mark and sends Britt to scorer’s table to sub-in. At the 1:56 mark, Williams has seen enough of the Cheats’ bad offense after a missed shot by James and sends Meeks and Johnson to the scorer’s table. Barber converts a jumper for State at the 1:22 mark, making the score 26-18. Williams has a timeout that he will lose at the half that he can use to sub in his three players and also give him a chance to unleash his fury on his team. Instead, they play on – Lacey hits a 3 for State and the Cheats don’t come close to scoring again. 29-18 Pack at the half.

– After extending their lead to 16 points at 36-20 early in the 2nd half, The Pack begins to stray from their game plan and take a series of rushed and poor shots – leading to runouts and scramble plays that are like candy to the Cheats. The result is a 12-0 Cheats run to cut the lead to 36-32 after three called State timeouts. Perhaps the most key sequence happens now. Coming out of the third timeout, State patiently runs their offense until Des Lee does what he does best – drive the ball. The result is a drawn foul and two free throw opportunities, which Lee will calmly sink coming back from a media timeout. 38-32 State. The Cheats will go on to cut the lead to 38-36 before Ralston Turner hits the shot of the game – a 3-pointer on a kick out from Anya. 41-36 State at the 10:47 mark. Two seniors – Lee and Turner – combine to make clutch plays when State needs them the most. The Cheats will not cut the lead lower than 4 points for the rest of the game.

– At the 9:21 mark of the 2nd half, it’s 43-38 State and Kennedy Meeks has secured the ball off of a State turnover but has to take a timeout to ensure the Cheats keep possession of the ball. During this timeout, Nate Britt is subbed in for Paige. Recognizing this sub, the Pack goes into a 2-3 zone – the first time they have been out of man D all night. On the ensuing Cheats possession, they turn the ball over. The Pack then get fortunate as they miss a shot and the Cheats turn the ball over yet again – this time an unforced error on a transition opportunity. Barber will hit a jumper to push the lead to 7, and Jackson will respond with a 3-pointer to cut the lead to four, 45-41. Neither team will score again before the media timeout that comes at the 6:43 mark. Almost three minutes have come off of the game clock with Paige out of the game. The switch to the zone is effective. When Paige does come back, the teams will trade missed shots until Turner can nail a beautiful transition 3 off of an assist from Barber at the 5:10 mark. State is still in control of the game.

– At the 2:32 mark, Paige will hit his only 3-pointer of the game to make the score 50-46 Pack. Instead of dread setting in and thinking ‘here we go again’, State remained confident and possessed better body language than that of the Cheats. Freeman will convert 1 of 2 FT’s on State’s ensuing possession, and the Cheats will turn the ball over on each of their next two possessions. After the first of those turnovers – corralled by Freeman – Trevor Lacey will convert a three-point play on a beautiful pump fake and drive by. 54-46 Pack. The Cheats will then come down and throw the ball out of bounds at the 1:14 mark. Dagger. State will score the final 8 points of the game from the 2:32 mark en route to the 58-46 final. Pure, unadulterated bliss.

Intangibles

NC State had a better plan. Better adjustments. Better composure, poise, and confidence. Better coaching. Better execution. State was better in all phases.

The game itself was a fairly ugly affair … The Pack relished it and happily flung themselves into the mud in order to mix it up – the Cheats, not so much. The Cheats could never seemingly come to terms with what was transpiring on the court – that this was happening.

If you’ll recall, I mentioned earlier that ‘pride goeth before a fall’ with respect to Tokoto and the Cheats. State’s gameplan and execution was in the Cheats’ heads. You can probably state that was the case for most of the game, but there were some occurrences that stood out to me.

At the 11:32 mark of the 2nd half, the Cheats knock the ball out of bounds near halfcourt on a State possession. Tokoto is shown by the cameras wildly gesturing and loudly mouthing off. It’s unclear if Lacey did or said anything (didn’t look like it to me), but he looks on incredulously as the ref starts admonishing him as opposed to Tokoto. What is clear by this point is that State is under their collective skin. Lacey would wind up turning the ball over on that possession – throwing it out of bounds. Tokoto once again took the opportunity to crow about it and make gestures. The Cheats would score off of an offensive rebound. No matter. State would come down and respond with a Turner 3. Composure and poise.

Fast forward to the 8:16 mark and Barber nails a top-of-the-key jumper to once again extend State’s lead … the cameras pan to the Cheats bench where Paige is seen solemnly shaking his head. They can’t believe what’s happening. This is State’s game. It was always State’s game. The Pack won the confidence and psychological battle all night. They never gave in, always keeping confidence and belief … composure and poise.

State made the proper adjustments at the right times. The game management was sensational. I’ll posit that the use of three timeouts during the Cheats’ 12-0 run was absolutely the right move. Stem the tide, regain control … ‘If you execute the gameplan, you will win’.

NC State’s staff was better, their players were better, their team was better. Cheat that, frauds.

Did I miss something? Disagree? Please share your thoughts on this great win.

About wufpup76

'99 grad. Abundant reservoir of useless knowledge and even more useless skills. Vehement believer in the individual voice and also that it will indeed all be over by Friday.

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Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 51 total)
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  • #76092
    wufpup76
    Keymaster

    Greetings from snowy and wet Apex, NC. I would have published this a bit earlier, but I was one of the unfortunate ones to lose power while the snow/r
    [See the full post at: Let’s Break it Down]

    #76093
    Wufpacker
    Participant

    Very nicely done WP76. I enjoyed reading this a great deal.
    But full disclosure…I enjoy reading anything that is about us punking the heels.

    – Try not to laugh too hard at me, but a key sequence to me was the very opening of the game. We’ve all seen various past State teams get completely blitzed and overwhelmed at the tip of games on Cheater Hill – or at the very least the tone of which team would likely win the game was set that early. Not this time, not this team. For the first two minutes of this game, it looked like it could head down a familiar path: Cheats won the tip, hit a jumper. State wouldn’t score until the 17:52 mark, and in those two minutes suffered two missed shots, two blocked shots, and a turnover. What didn’t happen though is the Cheats getting out to a quick 6-0 or 8-0 lead and a collective ‘oh ****’ feeling setting in. Instead, State responded with the poise and composure it would display all night and then go about its ass-kicking business.

    I will not laugh at you, sir. With the possible exceptions of the end of the first half and putting a stop (finally) to their 12-0 run, I think the first four minutes were the most important for us.

    #76094
    Wufpacker
    Participant

    Oh, and speaking of breakdowns, this…
    (special thanks to BJD for allowing me to record his post-game celebrations 😀 )

    #76095
    PapaJohn
    Participant

    Great write up and I LOVE THAT PICTURE. Kind of glad it came a day after the rest, gave us another fun article to read about the game of the year. (so far)

    Just saw an article on SI listing the Pack as the 29th best defensive team in the country. Unbelievable! After the WF mess, I (for one) thought the season looked bleak. Now, two weeks later, we’re feeling pretty good about being in the NCAAT and getting identified as being a good defensive team.

    Crazy! The Pack roller coaster in action.

    #76096
    SaccoV
    Participant

    Speaking of Tokoto v. Lacey. The other white official (not recalling the name, but not Brian Dorsey) admonished Lacey on THREE separate occasions during the game. During the 2nd of these (I believe it was the first admonition of the 2nd half), I clearly read the official’s lips who said “Don’t get into trouble.” I never once saw an official talk to Tokoto; Lacey got the talkin’-to THREE times. I was still impressively shocked that the foul situation was as even throughout the game (even though it still favored the Asterisk). Great post-elation write-up!

    #76097
    Gowolves
    Participant

    A couple of thoughts…

    Hate to toot my own horn but Beej and I think were the only ones that thought this team could be good defensively. This team was too long and athletic to not be better this year. Do I expect this to last to future seasons… No. This team can play good defense when it wants to.

    Even though Cat played great and has been for the last 5 games or so he almost reverted back to his old habits during that run by UNC. He was forcing a lot of the offense and not running the offense. He finally realized that was not working and stopped.

    #76098
    pakfanistan
    Participant

    Because I think you’re an author that can handle it, here’s an editorial nitpick. “for a myriad of reasons” should be, “for myriad reasons.”

    I’ll comment on the substance of the article when I finish it. But nice work so far.

    #76099
    PackerInRussia
    Participant

    Nice breakdown of the beatdown.
    I was really glad he used the timeouts the way he did when they were starting to close the gap. I hate watching a coach wait until the other team has scored 10 points before deciding to call a timeout. On one of those, he called a timeout after just one basket I think.

    #76100
    wufpup76
    Keymaster

    “for a myriad of reasons” should be, “for myriad reasons.”

    I appreciate the feedback – I hate making grammatical / prose errors. I will edit. Thanks again.

    #76101
    Since74
    Participant

    Some nuances that I thought exhibited the sheer poise and focus throughout the game:

    I noticed Hodge’s tweet in the margin about Dez’s drive and completed free throws, and agree wholeheartedly. Haven’t seen it mentioned but one time Dez was falling out of bounds, saving the ball, he had total body control and rather than just fling it back in bounds he found no one to pass to so just went out. That gives up the ball but it allowed us to set up instead of giving them a fast break opportunity. Thought it was very heady.

    Another play Lacey gets fouled on a three. Does he squander the opportunity? Nope, hits all 3 FT’s. Focus.

    Thought the 3 timeouts in the second were great calls (as noted by BJD real time). He also proved to be right when earlier in the week he said Cat was better than Paige, as long as Cat believed so.

    #76102
    pakfanistan
    Participant

    Great article, I think you’re spot on for the most part.

    I rewatched the game and something that stood out to me was despite playing a very good game, we still have 30% more to give on offense. We could have won by 20 if not for losing track of the shot clock a couple of times, a couple of lazy passes, a traveling call on a beautiful pass, point blank misses, and a couple of unnecessary forced shots.

    Imagine what THAT team would be capable of…

    #76106
    WolfWiz11
    Participant

    “Tokoto is shown by the cameras wildly gesturing and loudly mouthing off.”

    I (like everyone else) saw that and thought to myself, “THAT’S why I absolutely abhor that guy [and the Cheats].”

    Where did you rewatch the game? I’d like to use part of this snow day to relive that glorious day without the anxiety of anticipatory defeat.

    #76110
    Since74
    Participant

    Where did you rewatch the game? I’d like to use part of this snow day to relive that glorious day without the anxiety of anticipatory defeat.

    You can see it online at WatchESPN

    #76112
    pakfanistan
    Participant

    Or if you’re like me and don’t have ESPN….

    ssshhhhhhhhh…..

    #76114
    wufpup76
    Keymaster

    Where did you rewatch the game? I’d like to use part of this snow day to relive that glorious day without the anxiety of anticipatory defeat.

    I have the game on dvr, and also used the Espn play-by-play to construct the post. Hopefully it’s available on WatchEspn like ‘Since74’ stated or possibly on theacc .com. Or you can just use paki’s convenient yet secret video 🙂

    #76115
    Fastback68
    Participant

    I’ve watched the game 3x. I love when it when Cat runs the base line, curls in and hits a very difficult buzzer beater shot. I also enjoy Meeks sh– eating grin (not in real time) at the 11:01 mark 38-36. I’m sure he felt victory was assured at that point. I also like Meeks laying on the court near the end when defeat had been signed, sealed and shoved down his throat.

    #76120
    ajsnyder85
    Participant

    pakfanistan wrote:
    “for a myriad of reasons” should be, “for myriad reasons.”

    I appreciate the feedback – I hate making grammatical / prose errors. I will edit. Thanks again.

    I’ve done extensive googling in the past. Even grammar snobs acknowledge the ambiguity of the word “myriad.” It can be used either as a noun (“a myriad of ways”) or a adjective (“myriad ways”).

    #76122
    wufpup76
    Keymaster

    I’ve done extensive googling in the past. Even grammar snobs acknowledge the ambiguity of the word “myriad.” It can be used either as a noun (“a myriad of ways”) or a adjective (“myriad ways”).

    Hahaha – thanks. The debate rages on! Now that I’ve changed the title post, I’ll just leave as is. Thanks for chiming in.

    #76125
    MrPlywood
    Participant

    A couple of my favorite moments…

    Starting at about 16:15 left, Cat’s sweet spin move around Paige and layup.

    Starting at about 5:15 left in the game, the beautiful kick out from Cat to Turner for 3.

    At about 1:45 left, Lacey’s drive to the basket for an “and 1”.

    #76132
    pakfanistan
    Participant

    I’ve done extensive googling in the past. Even grammar snobs acknowledge the ambiguity of the word “myriad.” It can be used either as a noun (“a myriad of ways”) or a adjective (“myriad ways”).

    Death to the infidel!

    #76137
    BJD95
    Keymaster

    I swear, I iz usually grammar Nazi supreme, Comrades, but I have always used “myriad” all adjective-like.

    #76138
    pakfanistan
    Participant

    Oh well, the shield of common usage in effect I guess.

    I’ll update my notes. (Even if I think ‘of’ is redundant)

    #76140
    WolfWiz11
    Participant

    Ahhh . . . what a delightful way to spend an evening, reliving our victory. I think I may watch that whenever I’m having a bad day. Just for a few months 😀

    #76141
    WTNY
    Participant

    Ahhh . . . what a delightful way to spend an evening, reliving our victory. I think I may watch that whenever I’m having a bad day. Just for a few months 😀

    And then when we need to mix it up, we can watch 35-7!

    #76142
    bill.onthebeach
    Participant

    RE: Lacey and Tokoto…

    Tokoto was handchecking Tokoto on every occasion he could when “the ref wasn’t looking”. There was also a lot of “incidental” body contact that Tokoto initialed that was insufficient to disrupt the play and warrant a whistle especially when Lacey did not have the ball.

    After a while that all looked “normal” to guys in stripes who were focused on bigger violations.

    When Lacey attempted to bring this to the referee’s attention in second half, Tokoto responded with some trash talking.

    As noted above, in the end, our man Lacey GOTT the last laugh…

    Tokoto must have GOTT this idea from some close friends who dressed out on Saturdays and pretended to be defensive football players for Coach Hat last season – (nobody in their right mind in blue or red would suggest that they were defensive football players or accuse them of actually playing defense on the football field ).

    And I’m also certain none of his close friends were embarrassed by Tokoto’s results as they were quite reminiscent of the State – Carolina football game where those same kids gave up more rushing yards than any Tarhole team in any game they ever played in Chapel Hill.

    That game, of course, is poetically symmetrical to our basketball team holding the Holes to the fewest points they had ever scored in a men’s basketball game in the Dean Dome.

    Tokoto and Lacey will meet for Round Three in just a couple of weeks.

    #NCSU-North Carolina's #1 FOOTBALL school!
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