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Meet Longwood, NC State’s NCAA tournament first round opponent

Was “Longwood” a good idea for a school name? No, but we’re not here to talk about that right now.

Mount St. Mary’s v Longwood Photo by Scott Taetsch/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Longwood defeated Mount St. Mary’s 74-70 on Thursday night to advance from the First Four and will be NC State’s opponent on Saturday afternoon. The Lancers are about 60 spots ahead of Mount St. Mary’s in the HerHoopStats Ratings (call it the women’s hoops KenPom proxy), so the outcome was not unexpected. The Lancers outscored the Mountaineers 22-5 in the first quarter and held off a major second-half rally.

It’s fitting that Longwood moved on, because BeeJay Anya’s sister, Brooke, is a sophomore forward on the team. (If you’re going to the game, please give Brooke a warm welcome.) Brooke averages 2.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game off the bench and was the only Lancers bench player to see double-figure minutes Thursday.

Longwood is 22-11 (15-3) and the champion of the Big South. Let’s meet the Lancers.

2021-22 Longwood Lancers

... Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
... Adj OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% 2FG% 3FG%
Offense 96.5 (117) 47.2 (96) 19.6 (199) 32.7 (126) 47.5 (70) 31.0 (159)
Defense 92.7 (185) 44.4 (148) 21.4 (68) 37.0 (334) 44.2 (170) 29.9 (123)

The Lancers are not bad offensively, particularly inside the arc, and that is largely due to the efforts of Big South Player of the Year Akila Smith, a forward who averages 16.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

Smith is undersized but you wouldn’t know it from her production: she shoots 59% from two, rebounds well at both ends, and block shots at an impressive rate. She’s also a 75% shooter at the free throw line.

The team’s leading scorer is Kyla McMakin—which, with a name like that, she kind of has to be. She’s a pretty versatile wing player who accounts for a huge workload: she’s attempted 372 two-point shots, while Smith, for example, has attempted 383; she’s taken 192 threes, while Smith has tried only three. McMakin has attempted 20 shots or more eight times this season.

The rest of the team occupies a secondary role around those two, and the Lancers don’t figure to play a deep bench. Not that this is something they’re worried about; it’s noteworthy that they rank 22nd nationally in tempo, and that urgency is something that NC State will need to stay well aware of.

Longwood wants to try to take advantage of transition opportunities whenever possible—that’s informed a defensive approach that has been good at forcing turnovers, though that mileage varies by level of competition

The real bad news for the Lancers is that they are terrible on the defensive glass, so if they aren’t forcing turnovers, it’s tough for them to get into transition. NC State should win handily on the boards and it’s unlikely that turnovers are going to be a huge bother for this Wolfpack team.

Longwood doesn’t have anyone who can match up with Elissa Cunane, and that’ll open up plenty for State offensively. The Pack is more interested in a half-court game and should dictate the pace with its rebounding at both ends.

Longwood is not dramatically three-point-shot inclined and that part of their offense doesn’t figure to be a difference-maker for them. (Never know, of course!)

State should take care of business by playing through Cunane, handling the boards, and just generally doing the usual variety of things that makes the Wolpack very, very good.