State has played four games so far in the young season. In two of them, it looked like a brand new team. In the other two, including Saturday’s 74-63 win over Elon, it looked a little too much like last year’s team.
The Pack was a bit directionless at times on offense in what became a halfcourt game after the first couple minutes. State does not love these types of games, and credit to Elon for taking care of the ball and limiting the live-ball turnovers. The Phoenix played a good bit of zone in the second half, and State struggled to organize against it, instead bombing from deep more than you’d like to see, even with Terquavion Smith. The Pack shot 42% for the game, its lowest percentage of the season.
Compounding the issues with the plodding offensive performance was a pretty uninspired defensive performance, particularly in the second half. State’s guards defend pretty well on the ball, but State struggled to keep itself together off the ball. It was just frankly disorganized, and pretty routinely lost cutters and shooters coming off screens.
State got the job done nonetheless, largely as a result of just having better players. Casey Morsell continues to play well, and he hit a number of tough shots on his way to 15 points. Dusan Mahorcic had his best game so far and was a major factor on the glass, notching 13 rebounds. He’s just bigger than anybody the Phoenix had, and they struggled to deal with him in the second half. His 9 and 13 stat line turned out to be real important too, because DJ Burns does not look comfortable at all right now, and Mahrocic hit some big buckets in the second half while forced into the majority of the minutes.
Jack Clark actually led all scorers with 21 on 9-18 shooting. Smith didn’t really have his fastball, shooting 6-16 from the field, but still hit his share of long balls on his way to 16 points. Morsell rounded out the double figure scorers with 15.
The Pack is 4-0, although it’s not exactly clear what we got here yet. It’s hard to bring everything you got every night against the cupcake teams, and hopefully that’s all this is. It’s certainly too early to start making sweeping judgments, especially on a rebuilt team learning to play together. The good news is we’re going to learn pretty quickly. State plays three tough games in a row this coming week, starting with defending champion Kansas on Wednesday.