As this game went to the half, it felt like NC State badly needed one of its bigs to step up. Ebe Dowuona and Ernest Ross were bad, while DJ Burns was limited by foul trouble. The struggles there led directly to Vanderbilt’s four-point halftime lead.
Thankfully, DJ Burns made a huge impact in the second half, and NC State prevailed despite an underwhelming shooting night.
Pace and Efficiency
Burns’ performance down the stretch was absolutely critical, from the great dish to Jack Clark for a corner three that restored the lead, to the clutch one-and-one he converted with 90 seconds left to turn a one-point deficit into a one-point lead. NC State got two consecutive stops after those free throws and pushed the advantage to five points.
Burns’ baseline dish to Casey Morsell, who made a tough catch and a better finish to put State up 67-64 with 48 seconds left, proved to be the game’s decisive blow.
Earlier in the second half, NC State turned around what was looking like a really bad night with a 13-0 run that turned a 46-38 deficit into a 51-46 lead. Morsell, who also had an excellent half, scored eight of those points. He finished with 15 points on 6-10 shooting.
It was a tough one for Baby T, who scored 16 but needed 20 shots to get there. He was just 4-12 inside the arc and 2-8 from three. Jarkel Joiner also struggled inside the arc but did a good job orchestrating the offense without turning the ball over, and as he played basically the entire game, that was key. He also converted crucial free throws in the last minute.
It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always much fun, but State still got out of Chicago with a win despite not having anything close to its A-game.