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December 8, 2013

Quick hits from NC State's win over Long Beach State

Quick hits and notes from NC State's 76-66 win over Long Beach State in front of 10,616 fans at PNC Arena in Raleigh Saturday afternoon.

Play of the game

Long Beach State had sliced NC State's lead to one at 50-49 after their star junior guard Mike Caffey converted a three-point play with 12:44 to go. Needing to respond, who better to answer the call for the Wolfpack than sophomore forward T.J. Warren. Warren drove to the basket, observed the foul from 49er junior wing A.J. Spencer, made the layup and nailed the free throw, putting NCSU up 53-49 with 12:09 left.

Highlight of the game

Warren is a scorer. That is what is in his blood. He came into the game leading the ACC in scoring at 22.6 points per game and raised his average incrementally by pouring in a game high 23 points Saturday. So when he gets an assist, it's noteworthy. He had only one against Long Beach State, just his fourth of the year, but it was a pretty assist. Warren threw a nice lob pass to fifth-year senior center Jordan Vandenberg for an alley-oop dunk with 18:28 to go in the game, giving NCSU a 38-31 lead. That was Vandenberg's only points off the evening.

Player of the game

NCSU head coach Mark Gottfried said after the game that sophomore point guard Tyler Lewis needs to play more, but it's hard to find minutes for him when freshman starter Anthony Barber is playing so well. Barber won his head-to-head matchup with Caffey, a first-team all-conference guard from a year ago who was averaging 16.0 points and 4.1 assists prior to Saturday against a tough schedule for LBSU.

Barber had 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting, made 2 of 5 three-pointers and added four assists with just two turnovers in a career-high 35 minutes. Lewis ended up playing just five minutes, the first time under 10 minutes in a game this year.

Battle in the paint

Perhaps for the first time since Cincinnati, NC State faced a tough opponent in the paint. Long Beach State junior center Dan Jennings is a West Virginia transfer, and he was unafraid to go right after the 7-1 Vandenberg despite spotting him four inches. Jennings finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.

His counterpart in the starting lineup, junior David Samuels, a junior college transfer, set career-highs with 16 points and 11 rebounds, his first double-digit rebounding effort as a 49er.

Yet despite that, NCSU did a much better job holding its ground in the paint than they did earlier in the year versus the Bearcats. Vandenberg blocked three shots, giving him eight in the past two contests. Freshman power forward Lennard Freeman grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds to go with four points. It was Freeman's second-straight double-digit rebounding effort.

Freeman's classmate, Kyle Washington, matched his career-high with six points and added three boards off the bench.

In the end, NC State outrebounded Long Beach State 36-33 and the Pack had a 40-36 edge in points in the paint.

A good 1-9 team

Long Beach State has a .100 winning percentage, but do not be fooled. By the end of the year they could be a potent team in the Big West Conference. Examine some of their nine losses:

- At No. 2 Arizona by 34 points
- At Kansas State by 13 points
- To No. 22 Michigan in Puerto Rico by six points
- To VCU in Puerto Rico by six points
- To Kansas State (again) in Puerto Rico by 14 points
- At Washington by three points in double overtime
- At home to Creighton by 17 points

It's worth noting the VCU was ranked No. 10 when LBSU played them, and Creighton has been previously rated this season.

Spotted at the game

Not confirmed, but someone with a striking resemblance to former NCSU guard Scooter Sherrill was seen mingling behind NC State's bench at one point. More notably five-star center Chance Comanche, a junior at View Park Cont Senior High in Los Angeles made it for an unofficial visit.

What the win means

NC State improved to 6-2 and has won both games against Long Beach State that they have played. NCSU is also 6-0 all-time against current Big West Conference members. The Wolfpack also improved to 13-4 all-time in games played on Dec. 7.

Other stats of note

- NC State came into the game leading the ACC in fewest turnovers committed per contest, and they will likely continue to pace the conference after turning it over just nine times against the 49ers. Long Beach State had 11 turnovers themselves. NCSU outscored them in points off turnovers 14-12.

- Not many teams have been able to say since Gottfried arrived that they have outscored NCSU in fast break points, but Long Beach State can claim that after getting a 17-12 edge in transition.

- NC State shot well, 30 of 60 for 50.0 percent, while Long Beach State was 41.3 percent on 26-of-63 shooting. That helps explains why LBSU had a 15-12 edge on the offensive glass despite getting outrebounded overall. The 49ers also had a 9-6 advantage in second chance points.

- The Wolfpack is the only ACC team shooting under 30.0 percent on three-point attempts, and they made below their season-average of 26.7 percent coming into Saturday. State connected on just 3 of 15 for 20.0 percent against a predominantly zone defense.

The good news is that the Pack, one of the poorer free throw-shooting teams in the ACC entering Saturday, connected on 13 of 15 at the line for 86.7 percent, their best effort of the season. Warren made all three of his from the charity stripe and is 21 of 22 in the last four contests. That's a noticeable improvement from when he made 54.2 percent of his free throw attempts.

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