NC State holds on for tight win over Boston University despite defensive issues

Wolfpack remains undefeated at home, but still dealing with identity issues at the beginning of December

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
North Carolina State head coach Mark Gottfried reacts during a timeout during the second half of a college men's basketball game on Friday

RALEIGH — NC State came away with its fourth home win of the season over Boston University, 77-73, but did so in unconvincing fashion.Following a loss to Illinois in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge where the Wolfpack’s defense was shredded, the Terriers found open looks all afternoon. Unlike Illinois, Boston didn’t punch in every opportunity it got on the pick-and-roll (shooting 45 percent from the field), but did enough to frustrate Pack coach Mark Gottfried.”You’ve got to be able to defend it more than one way,” Gottfried said of his pick-and-roll defense. “… They did none of the above. Of all your choices, they picked none. That’s not good. A, B and C answer and they picked D. We’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to get better at it.”The Pack’s woes defensively were only outdone by its inability to defend without fouling. Playing a nine-man rotation with Maverick Rowan out and Omer Yurtseven suspended, both Ted Kapita and Terry Henderson fouled out of the game. Henderson still finished the game with 23 points and four 3-pointers.Abdul-Malik Abu, who finished with four fouls, played tentative in the paint for much of the second half and tallied just five points and six rebounds. In his last two games at PNC Arena, Abu is averaging 5.5 points and six rebounds after registering two double-doubles in his first five games.While Henderson said the team isn’t making excuses for why it has struggled defensively, he admitted playing with four fouls much of the second half forced players to be tentative.”It makes it tough, but that’s what we’ve got our team for,” Henderson said. “We’ve got guys on the bench who can step in and play good minutes, so that’s what we need. Just make sure everybody’s ready to play, man, and if starters are in foul trouble guys on the bench who would be starters anywhere else are ready.”Boston’s bench outscored NC State’s bench 32-6 on Saturday. The Terriers also out muscled the Pack around the rim with 36 points compared to 32. NC State outrebounded Boston 43-40 after facing a 26-18 deficit in the first half.In the previous home win over Loyola, Gottfried was quick to point out his team hasn’t quite meshed. With several young players expected to step up before the return of Rowan and Yurtseven, the sixth-year coach asked for patience at the beginning of December.”You look out there sometimes and you’re gonna see four freshmen out there at one time,” Gottfried explained. “I wish I could have a magic wand and make them all juniors and seniors. They’re not. They’re gonna learn. The best way they’re gonna learn is to be thrown right in the fire.”I’d love to blow every team out by 25 points, that’d be wonderful. But we’ve got a young team that’s going to get better every day.”Gottfried was also quick to point out that Illinois destroyed VCU and Loyola defeated San Diego State on Saturday.On the other end, the Pack struggled from the charity stripe. While Torin Dorn and Henderson combined to go 12-of-15, the rest of the team went 10-of-21, including three missed free throws late from Dennis Smith Jr. The freshman compiled 12 points and three assists, but had three turnovers against the Terriers.Smith may have struggled, but didn’t lack exciting plays on the afternoon.
Wolfpack point guard @Dennis4Smith— Pack Pride (@PackPride) December 3, 2016
As usual, Dorn was a bright spot for State yet again with 22 points and 11 rebounds for his second double-double of the year. While he wasn’t the program’s focal point heading into the season, Dorn has quickly become the most consistent scoring and, at times, rebounding threat for the Pack.”He’s doing a lot of different things for our team,” Gottfried said of Dorn. “Whether it’s getting the rebound, making a good pass or helping us beat the press, making foul shots. He’s stepped up and had a great start to his season.”Dorn will be expected to step up yet again when the Pack takes on Tennessee State (7-1) at Reynolds next Saturday. The Tigers have played five straight games away from home, going 4-1 during the current stretch.The game against Tennessee State marks two things: the first game at the updated Reynolds Coliseum and the final game without Yurtseven. With issues defending and rebounding the basketball, getting a 7-footer into the rotation might heal some of those wounds.