The Wolfpack have played two games since our last update, winning both of them to up their season record to 3-0. They haven’t played a particularly good team yet, so take that record with a grain of salt. But their last two opponents offered different challenges, one that State found easier to defeat than the other.

Their second game of the season came against in-state rival Campbell. The Camels play a deliberate style of play, one not too dissimilar from Pete Carril’s old Princeton offense. This ended up being a game every bit as tight as the final 73-67 score would indicate.

There were two things that proved huge in the game. The first was how incredible Campbell shot the ball from 3-point land, as it hit 10 of 19 shots from behind the 3-point line, for a sparkling .526 conversion rate. But they gave away that great shooting edge by missing far easier shots. The Camels converted just 7-18 from the free-throw line, and that was with making their last four shots from the charity stripe.

Meanwhile, State – which should be a good 3-point squad, hit just 4-17 from behind the arc. Terquavion Smith went 4-9 and the rest of the team put up a goose egg. But they made up for that by hitting on 62.5% of their 2-point field goal tries. Smith played the whole game and led all scorers with 19 points. Backcourt mate Jarkel Joiner played 37 minutes and finished with 17. And that points out an early concern, if the team has enough depth with their guards. Sophomore Breon Pass was supposed to be a contributor as first guard off the bench. But in 12 minutes he had just two points and one assist.

Last night, the Pack squared off against Florida International, who picked up full court and had surprisingly good post players. The Panthers came in 2-0 but this game was never in doubt, as State rode a very good night shooting to a 107-74 win.

The final score may give you the idea that this was an easy game. And it was, up to a point. State did a very good job handling the defensive pressure, as it committed just 13 turnovers compared to the 22 of the visitors. But the story was the Pack’s great shooting, especially from outside. Joiner and Casey Morsell each had 26 points, with both players nailing six 3-point buckets.

Morsell’s night was particularly good to see. He figures to have plenty of open looks this year, as it makes sense for his man to be the first to help defensively against the other four starters. Morsell is known for being a tough defensive player but he’s never been a big scorer at the collegiate level, either his first two years at Virginia or last year in Raleigh. If he can knock down threes on a regular basis, that would be great for the offense.

Joiner had displayed a nice mid-range game in his first two starts for State. But Tuesday night he showed the ability to score at all three levels. He had one possession that was particularly memorable, as he danced with the ball in front of his defender before side stepping beyond the 3-point line for a bucket as the shot clock expired.

Smith didn’t have a great game scoring but in addition to his 15 points, he had 6 assists, 6 steals and 4 rebounds. Pass had 7 points and 4 assists but the reserve guard who stood out was freshman L.J. Thomas, who in 12 minutes scored 12 points, including two from behind the arc. Thomas has more bulk than most guards and it was very encouraging to see his output on Tuesday.

Ernest Ross also had a good game off the bench for the Pack. Ross is a very athletic forward, one who was just coming into his own as a freshman last year before suffering a season-ending injury not even halfway through the season. He played 18 minutes last night, hit both of his shots to go along with three blocks and four rebounds. More games like last night will result in more minutes and it wouldn’t be a shock if he moved into the starting lineup before the year is out.

No one played 30 minutes for State in this game and 10 players logged at least 11 minutes. And that was with Kevin Keatts emptying his bench with a hair over three minutes remaining.

Greg Gantt, who missed all of last year with an injury, made his first appearance of this season and looked especially adept at passing for a big man. The rest of his game seems very much a work in progress but it’s nice to have an experienced big to call upon off the bench.

Keatts will have a tough go finding minutes for all of his frontcourt players, which will be a 180 from last year, when Manny Bates and Gantt missed all of the season and Ross missed over half. That required playing big minutes for two raw big men, one who transferred after the season. The other, Ebe Dowuona, stuck around but is now the third center on the squad.

State has one more easy game before the schedule heats up significantly. On Saturday, the Pack will host in-state rival Elon, the last game before the team heads to the Bahamas to participate in the Battle 4 Atlantis, where it will square off in the opening round against No. 6 Kansas. The next game will be against either Wisconsin or Dayton. The other half of the bracket features Butler, Tennessee, USC and Brigham Young. The Battle 4 Atlantis will give State three games against top competition.

In the KenPom rankings, State is currently 66th in the nation, making it the seventh-best team in the eight-team field in the Bahamas. The only lower-ranked team is Butler, which comes in at 117. Interestingly, Butler is where former State player Bates transferred to after the season. There are 363 teams in Division I college basketball, meaning Butler is in the top 1/3 of all teams and is by no means an easy opponent.

So far, the Pack has played FIU (#234), Campbell (193) and Austin Peay (242) and their next opponent, Elon, is ranked 322. It’ll be a different world when they square off against the Jayhawks (8) on Nov. 23 at noon.

2 comments on “Pack hoops adds two wins to go to 3-0 for the season


    Saw the Butler/Penn State game and Bates looked great that night. A tough transfer out.
    A good start so far for the NC State, certainly better than Louisville, FSU and Syracuse.

    Go Pack!

  • Brian Joura

    I think they’re clearly better than last year’s injury-ruined squad but it’s tough to tell with the cupcakes they’ve played so far. We’ll know a lot more after Atlantis.

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