After the worst loss of the Kevin Keatts era, the Pack rebounded on Saturday with an encouraging 77-73 win at Notre Dame.
The Pack was looking for some major corrections to its halfcourt approach after being baffled by some zone defense in the last two games. Notre Dame surprised nobody by going to the zone early and often, but State brought a much more organized and intentional attack to South Bend.
Still without starting point guard Markell Johnson, the Pack moved the ball much better and shot selection drastically improved from what we saw on Tuesday night. Keatts used Torin Dorn’s mid-range game effectively within the zone in the second half, the ball didn’t stick nearly as much as it has been, and State’s decrease in three point shooting volume correlated with its increased efficiency in the halfcourt.
C.J. Bryce and Devon Daniels were brought in to be bucket-getters, and State has been looking for more efficient play from those two all season. Bryce brought it today with what was easily his best game of the season. The junior wing went 5/5 from three and dropped 23 points, leading all scorers. Daniels was second on the team in scoring with 15, including some clutch free throws down the stretch. More of this please, sans that awful floater that Daniels loves.
State also got good late minutes from D.J. Funderburk, who continues to ooze with potential. The tall lanky forward had two critical buckets in the final minutes to help seal the game and should probably be inserted into the starting lineup soon, or at least see some more minutes.
The Pack played with a lot more energy on defense and made just enough plays on that end to keep Notre Dame with fewer points than State. The Pack is still haunted by its inability to guard off the bounce (perhaps this was the reason for Lockett’s insertion into the starting lineup) and its overhelping on defense, but Notre Dame was cold from three, shooting just 7/28, and State did enough to hold them at bay.
NC State is still building chemistry as a team and has some personnel deficiencies, which is why it probably won’t roll over a lot of teams this year, but the Pack played a smart game and learned from Tuesday’s disaster, and it’s hard to not be encouraged by that. Great win for the Pack and well coached game overall.