NC State’s Beatdown: How The Wolfpack Got CowboyedPosted by KCarpenter on November 19th, 2012
On paper, the match-up between North Carolina State and Oklahoma State seemed to favor the Wolfpack. NC State has a one of the best rebounders in the country in Richard Howell while C.J. Leslie can, at times, be relentless on the glass. Meanwhile, the Cowboys were one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation last year. The math seemed simple: Even given an off-shooting night, NC State would win the battle of the boards. Even moving beyond the frontcourt, NC State’s cast of skilled veterans and talented rookies was supposed to make this team the easy favorite in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Yet when the final buzzer sounded, the Wolfpack was a 20-point loser to the Cowboys. What went wrong?
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie failed to make an impact on the game because they were hampered by foul trouble. The two talented players couldn’t stay on the court because of the relentless interior attack of Oklahoma State. Both players fouled out, with Howell tallying 16 minutes and Leslie managing 17. With those two gone, the Wolfpack lost their advantage in rebounding and ultimately ended up with only 27 rebounds to the Cowboys’ 42. By nullifying NC State’s clearest plus, Travis Ford’s team opened the door for an upset.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was freshman sensation Marcus Smart who led the way for the Cowboys. Managing 20 points, seven assists, seven rebounds, four blocks, and four steals, Smart dominated nearly every aspect of the game, dictating the offense and playing pesky defense that helped poor Lorenzo Brown tally seven turnovers. Smart’s all-around game was a sharp complement to the blunt force trauma of Le’Bryan Nash‘s brutal attack on the Wolfpack interior. The 6’7″ sophomore ruthlessly took it to NC State’s rim and was largely responsible for Howell and Leslie’s foul trouble. Marching to the foul line 13 times and making all 13 attempts, Nash racked up 23 total points while simultaneously taking NC State’s most important players out of the game.
The work of this tandem, combined with Oklahoma State’s typically tough perimeter defense, brought the Wolfpack offense to a screeching halt. One of the better teams in the country at guarding against the long-ball, NC State was held to 4-of-14 from deep with Scott Wood, the resident marksman, managing only 1-of-11 from the field. This failure on the offensive end led to lethargy on the defensive end and to the 20-point upset. Is the Wolfpack in trouble?
Hardly, though it seems clear that No. 6 ranking was perhaps a bit premature. While this was a tough game for NC State’s veterans and confirmation that Leslie and Howell’s foul trouble issues are still a major problem, the game showcased a few bright spots for the Wolfpack. Freshmen Rodney Purvis and T.J Warren led the team in scoring, managing 16 and 15 points apiece. On a night when little seemed to be going right for NC State, these two showed that they are ready to contribute. Warren, in particular, had a very impressive run in Puerto Rico and has staked out a position as the clear front-runner in the ACC race for Rookie of the Year. Still, this is the slimmest of silver linings for a team that lost a game it could have won had it taken care of things on the boards.