A few ramblings from N.C. State’s game at home against Georgia Tech and North Carolina’s trip to Miami.
7:05 p.m. Well, that didn’t take long. Anybody looking for the Wolfpack to have an immediate bounce from their improbable win over Miami in overtime this weekend may have to search long and hard. Already the Wreck is up 7-0 just 86 seconds into the game.
7:16 Courtney Fells has seven points and has the Pack back in the game, down 14-9. But an interesting thing just happened on N.C. State’s last possession: freshman stud J.J. Hickson just had his shot blocked three times on one possession. He may not have his shot swatted three more times before the season is out.
And then Ben McCauley tried to force things and was called for a charge. Tech ball.
7:32 And you can say this about Hickson: he’s relentless. After Fells has almost single-handily kept State in the game with 11 early points, Hickson shows two power moves for contested makes to bring the Pack within three points, 25-22. Look out, State’s hanging around.
7:56 When N.C. State commits to playing defense, that’s when it has its most inspired play. That could probably be said of any team, but particularly for State, which runs a fairly deliberate offense. Still, the Pack has been the better team in the last 10 minutes, and the result is that the game is tied at 34 at the half.
And what’s with the Matt Causey lovefest? Gosh, does every short, white, goofy-haired point guard who has to play harder than everybody else just to stay on the floor deserve such excessive lauding from guys like Mike Patrick? Good God, Mike, Causey’s got five points at the break and a whopping two assists. Calm down. He’s an average player who got hot in one game.
8:17 The Pack is moving the ball around and getting good looks and now leads. This can be a good basketball team, especially when it plays inside-out. Even the Artist Formerly Known as Brandon Costner got a nice bucket.
But look out, Causey’s coming back in. Please.
8:10 Ooooooohhhhhhhhhh. A one-handed, tomahawk jam by Tech’s Jeremis Smith off an overthrown alley-oop pass from the All-American Causey. Wow. Three-point game.
8:12 Um, Javier Gonzalez’s great play tonight has to be either exciting or infuriating for Pack fans. Or maybe it’s both. Where has this guy been all year?
8:38 State still leads by three with just over 7:30 left. Why has Tech stopped working the ball around the perimeter to open up shots inside? The Jackets did this in the first 10 minutes of the game and led by eight. Why go away from it? Is State’s halfcourt defense that good tonight? Maybe.
8:49 State goes from up by five to down by five in a blink of an eye, and I might have to admit that Causey’s a decent basketball player. His turnaround J at the foul line while being fouled was nice, and after pushing his defender twice to get space, he made two nice passes.
But State’s hanging in there, and McCauley has a ridiculous pass for an easy two. Good game here.
8:54 Even when he plays well, Gonzalez struggles. He picks up his fourth foul and has to come out with nearly four minutes left. Marques Johnson comes in and instantly the offense stalls, and Causey goes coast-to-coast as Tech leads with 2:29 to go.
8:57 Never mind on Hickson. He’s been blocked two more times.
9:04 What a weird game, and what a badly officiated one. There have been highly questionable calls on both sides, but we’re left with State down by one with 28 ticks left.
9:09 Tech survives as Gonzalez misses a 3-point attempt by two feet and the Pack loses another close one. This one must sting.
On to Carolina.
9:15 Back-and-forth game to start, with the Heels still looking something less than defensive-minded. 13-10, UNC through five minutes.
9:24 Just as I say that, Miami goes more than three minutes without scoring and Carolina builds an eight-point lead.
9:33 And now UNC goes more than four minutes without scoring, sending Miami to an eventual 13-2 run and the lead. I know Tyler Hansbrough makes a crazy amount of off-balance hook shots, but sometimes he forces them, too. And Deon Thompson allowed himself to be used twice in the paint. Ugh.
9:44 And now Carolina hits on a 16-7 spurt and takes a little edge. Later, Danny Green makes a nice steal and feed ahead to Wayne Ellington and the Heels lead by six two minutes before the half.
9:53 What a huge play. Lawson somehow gets a garbage layup to fall through while being fouled, and the Heels take a seven-point lead into the break. 47-40, UNC in a varied first half.
10:14 Heels stretch the lead out to 11 in the opening five minutes of the half, trading easy baskets. This is the time for UNC to step on Miami’s throat.
10:23 Hansbrough has scored nine straight points for Carolina, which takes a 12-point lead. Three of those points came on one of Hansbrough’s patented hoop-and-harms, followed by the kind of reaction that earned him the nickname “Psycho T”. Has there been a worse — but better-fitting — nickname than “Psycho T”?
10:32 Miami fans chant “air ball” after Hansbrough hoists one up, this despite being down by nine points. Then Hansbrough gets a feed and makes a hoop-and-harm. A simple fist pump from Hansbrough this time silences the Miami crowd, and it’s back to 12.
10:41 There are times when Carolina fans have thank the good Lord above that Lawson is on their team. His steal out of the Miami player’s hands and feed ahead for a Alex Stepheson leaner was a thing of absolute beauty. Heels in control.
10:45 A few wild 3s have Miami back within 13 with four minutes to go. Can’t let up now.
10:58 Heels stay in firm control and take what turned out to be a rather impressive second-half showing, finishing off a 98-82 victory to bounce back from their first loss of the season.
Again, there were a few sloppy stretches that neither Memphis nor Kansas seem to be having, but the Heels are close to being as good as they can be. They were really good on the offensive glass tonight, and Hansbrough’s 35 points were dominant. And the bulk of the offense wasn’t generated by making a bunch of 3s, and the Heels still won comfortably. That’s a good sign.
But there are defensive lapses still, and had Miami’s 3 before the halftime buzzer gone down and Lawson’s tricky layup stayed out of the bucket, this could have been a different game.