It took a frustrating amount of time, but NC State did eventually get some separation from Louisville, and in this case that separation came all at once. A 17-0 Wolfpack run early in the second half turned a 33-33 tie into a 50-33 advantage for the home team, and the Cardinals never recovered.
Pace and Efficiency
Terquavion Smith ignited that run by canning a pair of three-pointers and then finding Jack Clark cutting open to the rim for a loud finish and the traditional three-point play. In less than 90 seconds, State had gone up nine points and put serious game pressure on Louisville.
Everything fell apart for Louisville during the run, as the Cards ran tentative offense and turned the ball over several times while surrendering a couple of offensive boards that led directly to Baby T threes at the other end.
It wasn’t a great night offensively for State in general, but the guys were outstanding during the four minutes it took to build that cushion, and it was enough. While Louisville kept fighting, the task became a lot simpler for State—just keep the bad team at arm’s length. Louisville got back to within 10 a couple times but that was it for drama down the stretch.
Was it an impressive performance by the Pack tonight? No. Does it matter? Also no.
DJ Burns only made one bucket during the decisive run but was the Pack’s offensive standout, finishing the night with 17 points on 8-10 shooting. (And he played 34 minutes!) Casey Morsell also was essential, as he knocked down a handful of threes. All five State starters scored at least 13 points.
So NC State gets to head into its holiday break feeling an appropriate level of jolliness. A trip to Clemson on Dec. 30 is next.