Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
|Off Reb Rate||50.0||44.7|
NC State's basketball team got off to a start to Tuesday night's game that I can only imagine was a subtle tip of the cap to the football team's first quarter woes. The defense was a mess, giving up several open looks from three, which UConn hit without apology. The Huskies led 20-9 before State decided to start competing in this game.
Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright make a fine guard combo, and it was Napier who dominated the game early by taking advantage of those easy looks; he scored UConn's first 10 points. But it was also clear they weren't going to get much help from the frontcourt--save Mr. Wolf's career effort--and that eventually caught up to them. Neither Napier nor Boatright has great size for a guard, and I thought they were really bothered by Brown and Purvis in the second half. I mean, State actually forced UConn into shot clock violations.
It wasn't a good night for NC State's freshmen at the offensive end. Warren and Lewis were non-factors, and Purvis didn't contribute much aside from plays in transition. Nights like this are gonna happen, and that's okay. Damn, though, when Rodney Purvis is in transition, good lord he is fun. So fast.
The story of the second half was Richard Howell, who came back from a shot to the noggin to dominate the offensive glass and set the tone for the entire team. He finished the night with seven offensive boards, and his effort was outstanding throughout the game. The funny thing about his injury in the first half is it prevented him from getting into any sort of foul trouble, which allowed him to spread his wings and let Rich be Rich. He finished the game with zero personal fouls, by the way. Has that ever happened? He played 32 minutes.
Calvin Leslie did a nice job of picking his spots and finished 5-7 from the field; he also pulled down 10 defensive boards, giving this team the defensive rebounding it needed at some crucial times. Whenever Howell isn't in the game, Leslie's ability to rebound becomes exponentially more important.
So. Still a lot to work to do at both ends for this team, but there is a lengthy homestand ahead and the schedule gets easier from here. Lorenzo Brown won't shoot terribly from the field all year--tonight was a good step in the right direction--and the freshmen will keep getting better. Tonight was a good gut-check game--it was a single-possession contest with less than two minutes to go, and the Pack handled the pressure. They need to build on this win and do some fine tuning over the next few weeks so that they're executing better. They do that and they'll be in good shape for league play.