Tuesday, January 20, 2009

#2 Duke Shoots Pack Out of Cameron: 73-56

The Pack played their hearts out, but fell to the Devils 73-56 in a game which the score doesn't even begin to tell the story. In the beginning it looked as if this game was going to be ugly, with Duke starting the game shooting 1-12 and State turning the ball over 3 times before they even got a shot off in the first half. But 5 minutes in, the battle began. Duke and State fought back and forth, and it was State who held the 26-22 lead going into halftime.

The play of Brandon Costner (15pts, 5rebs) and Ben McCauley (15pts, 5rebs) once again fueled the Pack, who at times looked to be the more disciplined focused team on the floor. The Pack was at it's best when it played inside-out, meaning they worked their offense until they were able to get a good feed into the post, then the defense would either defend it one on one, or bring help, which then dictated what the post player would do: if he would hit a cutter, pass out to the open man, or attack the defender. When the Wolfpack run their offense and play inside-out they look surgical and precise as they get good shot after good shot. It's only when they begin to get away from that do the turnovers mount up and the bad shots begin the fly.

The point guard play was poor again, with the only true bright spot being the play of Julius Mays, who mysteriously only logged 5 minutes in the 2nd half. With Mays at the helm the Wolfpack looked disciplined, confident and patient. He got the ball up the floor with no troubles, and orchestrated the offense, telling people where to go, and scolding teammates for quick, poor shots. Although Sidney wants to run at a faster pace and get out on the break, the personnel on this team is built for a half court offense and sometimes gets out of its comfort zone when going at too high of a speed. Farnold Degand played a decent game; but again, he was not as sure or confident as Mays, as he consistently struggled to get the ball up the court and get the team into its offensive sets, which many times turned into Degand driving and kicking. Mysteriously Degand logged almost all the minutes in the 2nd half. Note that he also had a team high of 6 turnovers which had many pack fans questioning the decision Lowe made.

Overall it ended up being Gerald Henderson and his 21 points, many of which were dunks that sent the Cameron Crazies into a frenzy, that did the Wolfpack in. That, and the fact that Duke shot 76% in the 2nd half rendering the Pack helpless against Duke's onslaught. Although they put another L in the loss column, this team is improving. Duke is good, they are the #2 team in the land, and the Wolfpack stood toe to toe with them for 35 minutes at Cameron Indoor. The key to success for the Pack is to work out the point guard problems, and as Mays continues to grow and gain experience those problems should slowly but surely begin to disappear. Although the loss is a heart breaker, because of how close they kept it through most of the game, this should be looked at as an improvement. The Pack walked onto the #2 team in the country's home floor and walked out with their heads held high, and even more reason to believe in themselves.

When asked "Do you feel there is a gap between you guys and say, Carolina, Wake and Duke?" Brandon Costner answered "I don't feel there is any gap. I feel that at some points we give in mentally to mental fatigue and those mistakes dictate the outcome. If we can eliminate those mistakes as you saw, there is no gap...we can play with anybody"


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