CJ Leslie led the Wolfpack over Penn State. - Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
The Wolfpack proved worth the hype and ran away with a 72-55 victory over the Nittany Lions.
NC State came in as the favorite to win the Atlantic Coast conference behind their preseason player of the year, CJ Leslie. They added a stud freshmen class to complement Leslie, a big time point guard in Lorenzo Brown, and 'the best shooter in the building' Scott Wood. Turns out, everything we've been hearing about the Pack was pretty much the truth. They're good.
Penn State simply was not anywhere near ready to compete with a team of this caliber. The offense continues to struggle with no reliable option, not even with Frazier who continues to be uncomfortable when taking on the scoring burden himself. He finished with 23 points, but it took 20 FGA and 11 FTA to get there. The flow on offense was non-existant as once again the posts were ignored. The Lions only assisted on 4 of their 19 total baskets in the contest. It was another brick-fest at PSU's end as they missed 41 of their 60 FGAs and shot 34% eFG%. In two games, PSU has made 6 of their 43 three-point attempts (a lovely 14%).
Penn State was also overmatched on the defensive end, where NC State's athleticism and shooting ability could not be stopped. The Pack didn't even play particularly well, but PSU's need for help defense on Brown and other drivers opened up the perimeter for TJ Warren (22 points), Rodney Purvis, and Scott Wood (combined 8-11 from three). Leslie had a quiet game for most the day, but blew up the start of the second half with 7 points in the first 5 minutes, extending a nine-point NCSU lead to seventeen. It ballooned to 26 before PSU fought back in the last five minutes to end it at 72-55.
No one in a Penn State uniform played a complete game, but there were at least a few bright spots. One being Jon Graham, who looked like he belonged on the court against NCSU's long front-line. Graham was active early, grabbing some impressive rebounds in traffic (6 offensive), but he just could not complete plays and finish at the rim. He ended the game with 4 points and 10 rebounds, but I was impressed by his mobility against the athletic Pack.
Brandon Taylor also didn't do much in the box score off the bench, but for a true freshman, his toughness and willingness to battle was admirable. Donovon Jack saw his first official action of the year and had a pretty block in garbage time.
Ross Travis, Jermaine Marshall, and DJ Newbill all had forgettable performances. They each had their moments, but for the main supporting cast to Frazier, they were a let down. None of them were efficient, especially Travis who continued to force his jumper. After making his first attempt, he missed 7-in-a-row to go just 1-for-8 from the floor. Newbill struggled against NCSU's ball pressure with five turnovers, and Marshall shot just 1-7 from three.
No time to sulk as Penn State plays the loser of UMass/Providence tomorrow night at 7:30pm on ESPN3. It will be hard to address the offensive woes with such a short turnaround, but the Nittany Lions desperately need to find their shooting to salvage a good experience from this weekend.