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Shakeel Moore can be X-factor down the stretch for NC State

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Moore can be a difference maker, and he probably needs to be

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Clemson Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Shakeel Moore poured in a career-high 19 points in Saturday’s 81-65 win over Boston College. It was the third time this conference season that the freshman guard scored at least 10 points. NC State is 3-0 in those games. It is 1-6 when he scores less than 10. Moore, along with his counterpart freshman point guard Cam Hayes, represents the future of NC State’s backcourt. The problem for the Pack is that it badly needs the future to be now.

State has not gotten much production from its backcourt this season outside of Devon Daniels, who had been playing at an All-ACC level prior to tearing his ACL. The best individual efforts from other contributors have come almost exclusively from Moore, whose play in the league opener against UNC was the difference in that victory. Without that and his game-winner a few days later against Boston College, NC State might be sitting at two conference wins right now instead of four.

Shakeel Moore Win/Loss Stats

Win/Loss FG 3PT PPG
Win/Loss FG 3PT PPG
ACC Wins 22/37 9/14 14.3
ACC Losses 9/33 3/20 3.7

These flashes from Moore are evidence of the player he obviously is on track to become, but also the difference he makes on this team when he plays well. State has a fundamental problem on offense that has only been exacerbated by the Daniels injury, and that’s that it lacks playmakers and initiators on the perimeter. Its experienced guards aren’t particularly menacing with the ball in their hands and really serve the team better away from the ball. It’s compensated for this recently with strong play from the frontcourt, but it needs some of its athletic young guards to become the matchup problems that its older perimeter players just don’t present.

Moore has proven to be this guy on a couple of occasions, and it quite literally changed the outcome of some basketball games. He’s a good enough shooter to keep you honest when defending his explosive quickness, and that’s kind of a scary thought. He’s very much still getting into the groove of college basketball though. Turning this season around probably demands that the Pack gets a lot more from its backcourt, and Moore is in the best position to deliver that. Is that a fair ask of a true freshman? Nope! Not even close. But State’s growth as a team right now is tied so closely to the development of him and Cam Hayes that it will have a hard time getting a lot better without those guys rounding into form.

It’s at this point you’d like to see Keatts increase his trust in Moore and start to feature him more. It would be different if State was floating around the NCAA Tournament bubble, but it has little to lose and lots to gain right now being a team that is decidedly out. It makes sense to give the high-potential freshman the chance to grow into the backcourt force the more experienced players are not.

Keatts made it clear prior to Saturday that he needed more from the backcourt, and Moore delivered with his career-high. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come from the freshman, who noted in the postgame that he felt the game was slowing down for him. He’s clearly capable of being a difference maker this year, and State wouldn’t just benefit from him being one on a more consistent basis in the wake of Daniels’ injury, it probably needs it.