NC State hosts UNC on Saturday afternoon with the chance to sweep the regular season series against the Tar Heels for the first time since 2003. The Wolfpack’s win in Chapel Hill two weeks ago put it on the NCAA tournament radar and a win Saturday would help solidify its still-tenuous at-large chances. This would be another outstanding win for the top of the resume.
State is coming off a poor performance at Virginia Tech on Wednesday, while the Heels are fresh off an emotional win over Duke Thursday night. I don’t know if that game will have any impact on the Heels’ performance tomorrow, but I’m glad they’re coming off a win rather than a loss.
What went right for NC State in Chapel Hill:
— Al Freeman! Al Freeman? Al made all seven of his three-point attempts and scored 29 points to key the upset. He hasn’t shot the ball like that before or since, but there’s no faulting the man’s good timing. There was no better game to go career on ‘em.
— Markell Johnson played his finest overall game of the season, scoring 20 on 7-15 shooting while dishing out 11 assists. He was assertive down the stretch and made several crucial buckets.
— NC State made 15 of 30 three-point attempts in the game, with four players making at least two. Torin Dorn was also outstanding that day and hit four of seven from deep.
— State got a balanced offensive performance from its main five guys in that game—Freeman had 29, Dorn and Johnson scored 20, Omer Yurtseven added 16, and Braxton Beverly scored 10. The Pack’s offense looks pretty damn good when it is getting decent performances from more than a couple of guys.
— NC State turned the ball over on only 11.1% of its possessions and finished +5 in the turnover column.
What went not so good in Chapel Hill:
— Bench scoring was almost non-existent. Freeman was the only guy to hit a bucket off the bench, and he only half-counts since he’s been a starter for the bulk of the season. (And played starter’s minutes in that game.) Abdul-Malik Abu, Lennard Freeman, Sam Hunt, and Lavar Batts were all held scoreless in limited minutes.
The other five guys were good enough collectively to minimize the non-impact here, but assuming State is not due another brilliant three-point shooting performance, it will probably need one of the scoreless bunch to step up.
— UNC rebounded 41.7% of its missed shots. This is partly the result of lineup choices, since State rarely had two bigs on the floor at the same time—Abu and Freeman combined to play 15 minutes—but this is an obvious area for improvement. Roy Williams’ teams are always going to attack the offensive glass and they’ve buried State teams plenty of times with their dominance in this area.
— The Tar Heels made over 64% of their two-point attempts. Good thing they shot it poorly from the perimeter. NC State needs to find some solutions that prevent Theo Pinson from getting to the rim at will. I’m not sure there are any.