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November 27, 2012

NC State falls to Michigan in Challenge



ANN ARBOR, Mich. — North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried knows where his focus must directed in the coming weeks after watching Michigan outrace his team for a 79-72 loss in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday.

The No. 18 Wolfpack have surrendered at least 76 points in each of their last four games, and those numbers have — and will — improve.

"When you watch the tape, you'll say, 'We need to close out better at times. We need to defend the ball screen better at times,'" Gottfried said. "When they run the ball screen, they really run the center right to the rim, and we have to come over and help better at times. They ran a couple guys off of some double screens, and we're trailing off there and we have to be better and tighter off that. It's one breakdown here and there and there. We have to get better defensively."

NC State's defensive problems didn't all arise from deficiencies in execution. The third-ranked Wolverines have a wealth of talented shooters that makes them tough to guard. Michigan had four players score in the double digits, led by freshman shooting guard Nik Stauskas, who posted a game-high 20 points.

"First half, we went zone and kind of lost [Stauskas] a couple times," senior wing Scott Wood said. "He made a couple tough ones where he was contested in his face. In the second half, we said we were going to slip under the ball screen, but Burke got going a little bit, and once he starts to get into a flow, it's hard to stop him. A couple guys go in a flow early, and it kind of bit us in the butt."

Offensively, the Wolfpack focused on attacking the young Michigan post players and found great success. They scored 54 points in the paint, on their way to shooting 57.1 percent from the field (32-of-56).

Senior center Richard Howell was a force inside, hitting 6-of-7 shots for 12 points, but two early fouls in both the first and second halves forced Howell to the bench for long stretches of time. He fouled out after just 19 minutes.

Still, NC State was effective inside, nabbing nine offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive.

"Richard was playing really well. The foul trouble hurt us, but I thought we found ways to overcome it," Gottfried said. "[Redshirt junior center] Jordan Vandenberg gave us a few minutes, and we went small and played [junior power forward C.J. Leslie] at the center basically and put four good scorers around him. But we're certainly a better team when better players aren't on the bench.

"We shoot 57 percent from the field. That ought to be good enough to help you win."

Gottfried simply said the defense has to do a better job.

"They're a hard team to guard," Gottfried said. "They're a good team. We competed, really hard. We're a better basketball team than we were a week ago — now, can you maintain that and keep getting better? That's the question for us. We're still feeling our way and learning about our team."

Even though, the Wolfpack found success inside, the offense stalled for stretches, falling behind 30-18 midway through the first half and being outscored 23-8 in the first 11 minutes of the second stanza.

NC State turned the ball over 13 times, including six from Leslie, who added 16 points in 33 minutes.

"A couple of his turnovers were right around the rim, where he was trying to be aggressive and get to the basket and score," Gottfried said. "I like his aggressiveness. I thought he got bumped a lot around there, too. There was a lot of physical play, but we just didn't seem to be able to get a foul called in there.

"I'm not knocking the officials. It was just a physical game around the rim for him, and he missed a couple in there. I liked his aggressiveness. I'll take that every night."


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