When NC State and Louisville met in December, we got perhaps the first authentic “Wolfpack Loses Close Game In Painful Fashion” of the season. It would not be the last such game, and hey, we’re only halfway through the season, which is to say that we’re still counting!
The Cards won the first meeting 73-68 thanks to a Matt Cross three-pointer that broke a 68-68 tie with 30 seconds remaining.
What went right for State against the Cards
— The Pack erased a 14-point halftime deficit and led by as many as five points down the stretch, showing a level of resiliency that’s become a theme this season. Effort wasn’t a problem.
— NC State made 50% of its two-point attempts against a pretty good Cardinals defense, and that was despite Dereon Seabron shooting only 4-13 inside the arc. NC State has shot 50% or better inside the arc exactly one time since this game.
— Louisville, meanwhile, shot only 43.8% inside the arc.
— NC State turned the ball over on only nine percent of its possessions—six turnovers total—and finished +7 in turnover margin as a result of the strong work there. Louisville’s defense does not force a lot of turnovers, and State didn’t oblige with unforced errors.
— Cam Hayes played well, scoring 15 points on 5-12 shooting, including a couple threes, and didn’t turn the ball over in 26 minutes.
What went wrong for State against the Cards
— As alluded to earlier, Dereon Seabron didn’t play his best. (Though he was still growing into his role at that point.) He was just 4-14 from the field and 3-5 at the free throw line. Did still grab nine boards, though. You can always book him for eight or nine boards.
— Jericole Hellems shot 5-16, including a 3-11 effort from three that spoke to the larger picture, as the team finished 8-28 (28.6%) from outside. Hayes (2-6) and Terquavion Smith (3-5) were the only other State players to make a three. Twenty-eight threes is probably too many threes on most nights for this group.
— Louisville shot 39.3% from downtown, well above its season average. The Cardinals head into Wednesday night shooting 31.3% on threes, which ranks 260th nationally. Just a tough break to have them shoot that well in Raleigh.
— The Cardinals dominated the glass on both ends—power forward Malik Williams hauled in 12 rebounds, and Dre Davis snagged five offensive boards, nearly matching State’s team total (seven). Williams also scored 14 points on 6-8 shooting.
Can NC State find some way to be more effective in defending a talented big like Williams? That’s probably a no, but the Wolfpack is capable of doing a better job on the defensive glass—which will probably be necessary to win.
Clean up the defensive boards, maintain a decent positive turnover margin again, let Louisville hopefully return to a normal percentage from three, and baby, we might could have a stew goin’.
Seabron is a good bet to play better, and who knows, maybe Cam Hayes can spend a couple pregame hours visualizing the first meeting and relocate some confidence?
KenPom likes Louisville by seven.