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Three Points: Double foul trouble and moral victories

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Three Points from N.C. State's 79-72 loss at Michigan on Tuesday:

1) Better but not good enough

N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried and some of the players were encouraged by the moral value of Tuesday's loss. Compared to the effort in a loss to Oklahoma State and a even win over UNC-Asheville, there's some validity to that interpretation.

"I think they are a legitimate top 3, top 5 team in the country," Gottfried said after the game. "Our team is not that far off."

And senior guard Scott Wood theorized, "If they are the third-best team, I think we'll be all right."

I'm not arguing with either statement but Tuesday was an "Are you for real?" game. Let's put it this way, if either Duke or North Carolina were picked to win the ACC, they would have been expected to win on Tuesday night, even on the road, and no one would have been taking hand-grenade credit for Tuesday's effort.

N.C. State fell behind by 15 points in the second half, and didn't roll over like it did against Oklahoma State. Gottfried can hang his hat on that, for sure.

"We're a better basketball team today than we were one week ago," Gottfried said. "Now, can we maintain and keep getting better and improving? That's going to be the question for us."

The season also doesn't end tomorrow or even next month, so there's still plenty of time but make no mistake, N.C. State missed an opportunity to make a statement on Tuesday night.

2) Double foul trouble

Junior forward C.J. Leslie, who was "March 2012" aggressive, went to the bench with 9:09 left in the first half with his second foul. He didn't check back in until senior forward Richard Howell picked up his second foul, in a 28-second span, with 4:45 left in the first half.

Leslie managed to avoid further foul trouble in the second half but Howell, who kept the team in the game in the first half with his offense, picked up fouls No. 3 and 4 in a 24-second span in the first 5 minutes of the second half. Howell then fouled out with 5:57 left in the game.

"That was on me, I can't be fouling out of games like this," Howell put on his Twitter account after the game.

State's depth behind Leslie and Howell was thin before sophomore Thomas de Thaey left the program this weekend and junior forward Jordan Vandenberg didn't add much in six minutes on Tuesday.

Vandenberg, who's 7-feet tall, has a limited role but he has to do a better job of contesting shots. Vandenberg's primary use should be in taking fouls. He only played six minutes, and all in the first half, but he didn't have any fouls.

The primary preseason concern of "What happens when both Leslie and Howell get into foul trouble?" became a double-barreled problem on Tuesday.

Leslie was able to play with the fouls in the second half but Howell was not. Essentially, that's Gottfried's only choice at this point, hope the veteran players can still play while in foul trouble.

Gottfried's issue after the game wasn't that Howell or Leslie had picked up so many fouls but that they had one free-throw attempt between them, despite 24 field goal attempts.

"I thought (Leslie) got bumped a lot to around there, you know, a lot of physical play and we just didn't seem to find a way to get a foul call in there," Gottfried said. "I'm not knocking the officials, I just thought it was a physical game around the rim for him."

Leslie, who had 12 of his 16 points in the second half, actually didn't pick up his third foul until there was 42.6 seconds left. Down 75-70, Leslie backed Michigan forward Mitch McGary down into the post and was called for an offensive foul by referee Ted Valentine.

Leslie and Gottfried had nearly identical reactions to the call and no one on the bench agreed with the 50-50 decision.

"It came down to a last-minute call," guard Lorenzo Brown said. "We can question the call all we want to but we can never get it back."

3) Three is still greater than two

N.C. State made 62 percent of its 2-point shots and made five more total field goals than Michigan but the Wolverines went 9 of 24 from 3-point range. The Wolfpack only made two 3s, on eight attempts.

Wood was the only Wolfpack player to make a 3, 2 of 5. Rodney Purvis, T.J. Warren and Lorenzo Brown each missed their lone attempt.

N.C. State's not going to turn into Providence, circa 1987, anytime soon, but it needs more than just two 3s from Wood and more than just Wood making outside shots.


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State did not beat Michigan, but at least they did not stink up the gym like they did against OK State.

I am hopeful (confident even) that by March State will be a legitimate top ten team.


The lack of depth inside

The lack of depth inside hurts, but at least they didn’t stink it up last night… unlike some people. Ya know, I have fond memories of ‘10 and the ‘NIT bubble.’ :p


Yep, they did well to make it in the NIT that year.

it was incredible that with

it was incredible that with all of the shots Leslie took inside, and all the contact there was when he was shooting, the only foul that was called was on him - on a play that could have cut it to 2. Ted Valentine was as bad as ever.


Coach Gottfried summed it up in his post game remarks---i.e., we shot well enough to win, but not getting to the line and allowing too many open three point shots was the difference in the game. 

As I recall, State had trouble with their perimeter defense last season particularly in the first half of their schedule.  If they defend agressively the way they did in the last 5 minutes of the game last night, for a full 40 minutes, they should be OK.  Even though Michigan played an almost perfect game offensively--- I thought their point guard was terrific---the defensive intensity just wasn't there.

Expectations set by the media, not State

Please remember that it was the media who picked State to win the ACC.  So whatever expectations were set was the media's doing.  State has yet to play an ACC game.  Last night and today we are still in November.  State has a lot to figure out, and though Duke looks like the best ACC team right now, if not the best in the country, when State attends to its issues, it will find itself in the top tier in the conference come ACC play.  They probably have too many issues, lack of depth and a true big man inside, to realistically win the ACC.   

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About the blogger

Joe Giglio covers the ACC for the News & Observer, where he has worked since 1997.