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NC State 99, Bucknell 86: Wolfpack bests Bison down the stretch to secure important win

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Box Score

Four Factors NC State
eFG% 62.3 62.1
Turnover Rate 19.6
Off Reb Rate 43.2 22.6
FT Rate 61.4 24.2

86 71 121.1 139.4
NC State
99 71 139.4 121.1

Defense was optional on Saturday afternoon, and both NC State and Bucknell were shooting the ball well regardless. The Wolfpack had a bit more firepower in this contest than the Bison, and while the Pack had to fend off an impressive second-half rally, they eventually pulled away for the 99-86 win.

NC State led by as many as 15 in the first half, though at the break that lead was just nine. Bucknell got itself off to a torrid start in the second half, scoring 30 points in the first 10 minutes to cut the Wolfpack's lead to three. The Bison eventually took the lead with eight minutes and change remaining, and it was serious gut-check time for State. Coming off a loss. Noon game. Tepid crowd. All the energy on the other bench. A must-win game.

They responded. Caleb Martin hit a three to give State the lead back, and it would not trail again. The Martins were key to pushing the game back to safe distance--they combined to score 10 points over the four-and-a-half minutes after Bucknell claimed a lead.

The story for Bucknell was its outside shooting (stop me if you've heard this one before), and specifically, Chris Hass, who made seven of 14 three-point attempts. Hass was off to a slow start to the season from beyond the arc, but that clearly is over now. As a team, the Bison shot 13-27 from outside. Zach Thomas and Nana Foulland were excellent in support of Hass, but the Bison got little outside of that trio.

State had three scorers hit 20+, led by Maverick Rowan's career-best 27 points. Cat Barber scored 24, racking up 10 more free throw attempts, and Caleb Martin scored 21. Caleb and Rowan were crucial in holding off the Bison, as they accounted for all nine of the Pack's made threes.

Hass went quiet over the final 10 minutes, and NC State had significant edges in the free throw and rebounding categories, which made the difference in a game where the shooting percentages were basically even. NC State also picked a very good afternoon to hit 80% of its free throw attempts.

In the end, the Wolfpack won by a comfortable margin--the Pomeroy Predictor had State by 11--but I'm not sure the path to the result inspired a lot of renewed confidence. It was great to see the Pack have a breakout game shooting the ball, but on the other hand, the defensive effort was often atrocious.

Hass continued to find openings well after it was clear he had a hot hand, and State's perimeter defense in general was all over the place. It didn't help that Cat Barber was saddled with major foul trouble most of the game, but they've got to be better than this.

They've got a week to think about it and work on it. This next five-game stretch is going to be critical.