A shorthanded and fatigued Wolfpack rolled into Mizzou Arena in Columbia, MO last night. And for the first 8 minutes of the contest they looked every bit the shorthanded and tired team, ready to take a road loss and just go home.
And then, someone woke up the Kitty, as Anthony “Cat” Barber proceeded to take over the game.
His teammates soon found themselves energized as well, and what looked likely to be anything but a good outcome early on, became a great team win as the Pack ended the first half on a strong run, and took the lead on Barber’s halftime buzzer beater. They would pull away in the second half as everyone began to get more involved in the offense, as well as playing some pretty solid team defense. The Pack led late by 20+, before coasting to a 73-59 road win.
But make no mistake, Cat is, and will have to continue to be, the lynch pin of this team.
NC State hands Missouri its first home-court loss, 73-59 (USAToday.com)
“I think he has kind of put this team on his back,” Gottfried said. “He’s done it every night for us. He’s made big shots. He leads by example. He’s the hardest working guy in practice every single day. I’m really proud of him.”
Cullen VanLeer led Missouri with 12 points, shooting 4 of 7 from 3-point range. Tramaine Isabell added 10 points while Terrence Phillips and Wes Clark each scored seven.
VanLeer said Barber’s mid-range shot makes him particularly difficult to guard.
“He’s just a good athlete, and then he has a mid-range game, which most people don’t have anymore,” VanLeer said. “When a guy can stop and pull up on a dime, most people don’t know how to guard that and he’s got that pretty much down.”
Cat finished the night last night with 33 pts, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. But that only tells a part of the story of how he affected the outcome, and will have to continue to do so for this team to be effective.
Both Abdul Malik Abu and Maverick Rowan also finished with double figure scoring, 13 and 12 respectively. Abu managed a double double, also hauling in 11 rebounds.
Barber’s Superman act opens things up for everyone, taking pressure off of younger less experienced players, allowing them to get their feet under them without having to be perfect while doing it.
So, as Kitty goes, so goes the Pack.
The win was a milestone for 5th year head coach Mark Gottfried, his 100th at NC State. Only Everett Case got there faster.
State advances to 8-3 and is getting closer to the top 100 of the RPI. Missouri drops to 5-5 while losing their first home game of the season.
The Pack is next in action on Tuesday, as UNC-G comes to PNC Arena.
You can bet they’re already game planning to neuter the Cat.