|Off Reb Rate||38.2||40.0|
You'd be hard pressed to single out a better half of basketball played by NC State this year under the circumstances. The Wolfpack not only contained Tennessee's fantastic rebounders during the first half, it also played with patience--for the most part--and the freshmen up front really stepped up after Jordan Vandenberg picked up two fouls in the first few minutes.
Lennard Freeman and Kyle Washington both contributed some key scores in that opening period, but more importantly, they were able to control the defensive boards. T.J. Warren was no slouch here, either--he finished with a team-high eight defensive rebounds, while Washington had seven, and Freeman had five.
Those rebounding efforts allowed the Wolfpack to open up a 17-point halftime lead on a Vols team that was settling for some really terrible jump shots. State minimized the number of possessions where Tennessee ended up with multiple chances, and that was key, especially since the Vols went 0-fer from deep in the opening 20.
In the second half, State's intensity on the boards faded, Jordan McRae finally started knocking down some shots (he still needed 22 FGAs to score 21, which I'll take every time), and the Pack looked disjointed offensively, leading to some bad turnovers. Thirteen of UT's 20 offensive boards came in the second half, but fortunately, the Vols' shooting from the field didn't improve much.
Despite the more adverse conditions, Tennessee never got closer than five points. NC State got some clutch buckets from Cat Barber and Warren to keep the game under control. Unlike the Pack's last time out, the last four minutes were largely without drama. Had State not missed three straight one-and-one opportunities, the win would have been considerably more comfortable, though there ended up being little to sweat about anyway.
I can't say enough about the performances of Freeman, Washington, and BeeJay Anya. Anya ended up blocking a team-high five shots, which is one reason why Tennessee settled for so many jumpers. We need Anya to grab more than zero rebounds in 24 minutes, but his, uh, width--and wingspan--were important against this UT frontcourt. Dude even knocked down a nice mini-hook, as did Washington. Freeman did his usual thing, forcing nothing offensively, doing the little things.
NC State never trailed in this game; there were no ties, unless you count 0-0. That's a pretty good night.