Wednesday, February 11, 2009

LOWE'S HOME IMPROVEMENT: State Upsets Wake 82-76

Coming into Wednesday most folks had written off NC State. They had given up on Sidney Lowe and they were already looking forward to next year. Well Sidney and company issued a loud and clear wake up call to the Wolfpack Nation...The Pack is not done fighting. The enigma that is this NC State team is something we may never understand. Game in and game out NC State plays 30 minutes of top 20 type basketball, followed by 10 or so minutes of a "cringe and cover your eyes" basketball. One thing is for sure: this is an exciting team, although many times exciting for all the wrong reasons. But on Wednesday night the Pack played what may have been their best game of the season against the #7 ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

State took a page from Miami's book and fed the Deacs a healthy dose of zone defenses. They packed the paint and made Wake beat them from outside, which they were simply unable to do. The Pack also did the unthinkable: they stopped Wake's motor...Jeff Teague. Teague was bothered all night by the length and hustle of Courtney Fells who limited him to only 3 shots on the night. Pete Strickland spoke of the match-up and stated: "Courtney was totally focused on stopping Teague, and he did, he took his heart from him."

The defense wasn't the only aspect of the game that State impressed with. It was also, dare we say, the point guard play. Their Achilles heel for most of the season became a strong point as Farnold Degand and Javi Gonzalez teamed up to not only handle the pressure but also poured in 20 points, 14 of which came from the rejuvenated Degand who found his stroke and his swagger right off the bat. We're not sure what flipped the switch in Farnold, but you may need to look to the meeting he had this morning with head coach Sidney Lowe. The two spent almost 2 hours talking behind closed doors and while we do not know what was said, we could see the difference in Degand's play.

Wake was long and strong, yet NC State beat them on the boards 39-35, thanks to 9 from Costner and 12 from Tracy Smith, who beasted boys as he collected 10 offensive boards.
Smith was relentless and strong in the post and he battled the Wake bigs for every loose ball. Smith has shown a lot of progression this year in his ability to finish in traffic and his growing hunger for boards.

The win was huge for the Pack but once again it was not pretty down the stretch. At one point in the second half State led 20, but relentless pressure by the Wake guards flustered the Pack and brought the game to within 2 before Sid took a timeout. His message to the players..."Don't Stop!, You Cannot Stop Attacking!!" The move of the game by Sidney was playing 2 point guards at once to relieve the back court pressure. Farnold and Javi calmed the troops and Brandon Costner once again came up with more big shots as NC State knocked down their free throws down the stretch to secure the upset. Assistant Coach Pete Strickland spoke after the game about Wake's comeback and the Pack's timid play down the stretch. "The way we handled the lead was a little shrapnel from this past weekends game. It was still on the players mind I think." Maybe he's right and maybe it was a carryover from this weekend, but the fact that the Pack had the mental toughness and the confidence to finish this game shows progression. It also shows that Sidney Lowe and the boys are not done fighting just yet.

Leading Scorer:
Brandon Costner (23)
Leading Rebounder: Tracy Smith (12)


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