DJ Horne scored 24 points to lead NC State to a 74-68 win over Miami Tuesday night at PNC Arena. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Pack and raised their conference record to 6-4. It was a Quad 2 win, upping their record to 4-7 in games in the first two quads. However, they are still without that signature, Quad 1 win.
Things looked bleak for State with the three-game losing streak and clearly changes needed to be made. And coach Kevin Keatts went with a four-guard offense. And having Michael O’Connell or LJ Thomas on the floor made the offense look better. There were more forays into the paint and more open looks from outside. And in this game, the shots were falling, as State converted 48.1% of its shots from the floor.
In games where the Pack has shot 44% or better this year, they’re 12-1.
Just as important as State’s good offensive night was Miami’s poor shooting game. The Hurricanes shot just 36.4% from the floor and hit just 25% of their 28 3-point shots. The Pack played a solid defensive game but it seemed like the larger part of the explanation was that Miami couldn’t buy a bucket for most of the night.
And it’s a good thing that the Hurricanes didn’t shoot well because they destroyed the Wolfpack on the boards, out-rebounding the home team by 15, leading to a 19-8 advantage in second-chance points.
It’s been my opinion that State needs to play with a bigger lineup. But they went the opposite way and ended up with a win playing most of the night with four guards on the floor. But what happens when you get killed on the boards and the other team has just an average shooting night?
But we’ll worry about that later. Now let’s celebrate Casey Morsell hitting six of nine shots, including three from behind the arc, to finish with 17 points. And we’ll celebrate Keatts’ decision to leave DJ Burns on the bench for most of the second half. No one wants to say anything bad about Burns because he’s such a fun guy to watch play. But he was 2-6 from the floor, 0-2 from the line and didn’t have a rebound in 13 minutes.
Meanwhile, Mo Diarra played as the single big for most of the second half. He grabbed five rebounds in 14 minutes and finished the night with a +8. Assuming he’s not in foul trouble, Diarra should be playing 30 minutes every game, if not more.
The Pack had four players log at least 30 minutes, led by Morsell with 38 and O’Connell with 36. O’Connell finished with six points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Next up for State is a home game against Ga. Tech, which earlier on Tuesday upset No. 3 North Carolina. Tech is just 3-7 in the ACC but holds wins against both UNC and Duke. However, Tech is just 2-5 on the road this year, with one of those wins coming against Hawaii, which ranks 208th in the NET. The Pack’s not in a position to consider any game from here on out a gimme. But it can’t afford to lose a home game to a team ranked 134th in the NET if they wish to keep their slim NCAA Tournament hopes alive.