I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Dayton after Friday’s Second Round game between #8 North Carolina State and #9 Temple. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.
Three Key Takeaways:
- A Microcosm of N.C. State’s Season — There was some reasonable talk that an 8 seed was a bit low for N.C. State, but this game proved to be a microcosm of N.C. State’s inconsistent and, ultimately, underachieving season. The Wolfpack came out flat, with the offense looked tentative and sluggish, and the defense indifferent, en route to a 38-22 halftime deficit. They coughed up the ball 10 times in the first half against a Temple defense that ranks outside the top 300 in the nation in causing turnovers. And despite their size and athleticism advantage, their frontcourt trio of C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and T.J. Warren began the game settling for missed jumpers. They woke up in the second half, outscoring Temple 50-38, but it proved to be too little, too late.
- Temple Slowed the Wolfpack’s Transition Game Just Enough — Before the game, N.C. State’s players talked about the importance of getting out in transition. In the first half, Temple largely shut down this part of the Wolfpack’s offense, holding them to just five fast break points. It helps that the Owls take very good care of the ball (just five turnovers the entire game), minimizing transition opportunities. The Wolfpack pressed the issue in the second half, scoring 19 points on the break, allowing them to make this a competitive game. But the hole they dug themselves over the first 20 minutes with a stagnant offense was too deep to escape.
- The Charity Stripe Saved Temple From Collapse — With the Owls’ halfcourt offense out of rhythm in the second half, and their once formidable 17-point lead dwindling, they needed to scratch out any points that they could. After shooting just two free throws in the first half, the Owls managed 31 trips to the charity stripe in in the second half. They didn’t make it easy on themselves, shooting just 63.6 percent from the line, but they scraped together enough freebies to hold off N.C. State’s charge. Indeed, 20 out of the Owls’ 38 second-half points came from the free throw line.
Star of the Game: For much of the year, Temple has relied heavily — at times, too heavily — on point guard Khalif Wyatt, who takes almost 30 percent of the team’s shots. But graduate transfer Jake O’Brien‘s role as a complementary offensive piece increased over the season. He’s been getting more minutes, scoring more points, and given Temple a big man who can stretch the defense with his shooting. Today, he showed how valuable he is by scoring 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting (4-of-6 from three-point range). Though Wyatt finished with a team-high 31 points, that total came on 22 shots and was inflated by some late free throws. O’Brien’s efficient scoring is what fueled Temple’s first-half offensive surge.