NC State and Pittsburgh come together on Saturday with dueling losing streaks, and if that doesn’t get the hype skyrocketing for this game, I don’t know what could. The Panthers have dropped six straight games and haven’t been on the winning side since Jan. 14 against Florida State.
The Wolfpack is, of course, on an excruciating three-game skid that includes two games I won’t mention because I’m attempting to think about them as little as possible.
NC State and Pitt met in Raleigh last month, with the Pack pulling that one out 86-80 under some difficult circumstances.
What went wrong in the first meeting
— Wyatt Walker made a boo-boo, purposely tripping a Pitt player after being knocked to the floor. This was two minutes into the game, and he was tossed for the play, leaving the Wolfpack frontcourt shorthanded the rest of the way.
— Markell Johnson was clipped in the air while going for a block and fell hard on his lower back area, and he not only missed three-quarters of the Pitt game, he missed the next three games as well. State lost two of the three.
— Pitt spent a lot of time at the free throw line, racking up 28 attempts, and made 24 of those. Unfortunately, that’s been an issue for the Pack defense all season, and getting to the foul line is Pitt’s one obvious strength this year.
What went right in the first meeting
— Pitt also happens to be the worst defensive rebounding team in the league, and State clobbered the Panthers real good on that front, grabbing a total of 21 offensive boards. DJ Funderburk had six of ‘em. State got a second chance of nearly 46% of its missed shots and finished with 16 more field goal attempts than the Panthers.
— Devon Daniels put together a quality performance that feels like a rare thing these days. He was critical to keeping the offense productive in the first half with State still adjusting to losing both Walker and Johnson.
— NC State’s defense forced turnovers on 22.4% of Pitt possessions—17 in total. State finished +4 in that category.