A win is a win, right? It wasn’t pretty the whole time, but the Pack took over in the second half to pull away from Montana for its third win of the year.
Offensively, State was pretty good all night, hitting 58% of its shots. Markell Johnson had something of a coming out party, snagging 4 steals to go along with 6 assists and 9 points. Johnson knocked down his lone three point attempt and threw down a bunch of fast break dunks off his steals. He and Smith on the floor at the same time seemed to work pretty well. The duo even connected on a lob at one point.
Smith was clearly the focus of Montana’s defense. He was targeted several times with traps as he tried to set up the offense. He still managed to score 21, but settled for long jumpers at times. Elsewhere, Dorn continues to be really good. He showcased his mid-range jumper more in this game than the previous ones, and knocked down 8-12 shots on his way to 16 points. Dorn has scored in double figures every game this season.
Abu also had a huge game. 25 and 8 are certainly some quality numbers, and the 25 is a career high for the junior big man. State needed a big game from him given the lack of depth down low, and they certainly got it.
There is still a glaring lack of perimeter shooting on this team when Henderson isn’t hitting, and tonight he was not hitting. The senior went 1-6 from beyond the arc, which was part of a 4-14 effort from three for the team. Maybe Maverick Rowan can find some consistency when he returns? That would be huge for this team.
Defensively, State was pretty terrible in the first half. The switch to zone in the second half was a good move though and helped stimulate the Pack’s run that blew the game open. State defended the three pretty well on Friday, holding a solid shooting team to under 33% from the outside, but gave up a lot of buckets in pretty much every other way in a first half where Montana hung 40 points on the board.
Being without 3 starters/rotation players is not something that can be overlooked. This was only about 75% of the NC State basketball team, so it’s tough to complain too much about some of the concerning things shown on Friday, even more so because of the resolve they showed by pulling away at the end. The bottom line is the Pack is 3-0 and being undefeated is better than being not undefeated.
State plays the winner of Creighton and Washington State on Sunday, which will definitely be a tougher test than what they saw tonight.