NC State men's basketball coach Mark Gottfried was impressed with how the Wolfpack freshmen picked up the scoring slack in the first half of Thursday's 72-55 win over Penn State in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
Gottfried spoke with the Wolfpack Sports Network following the game, and broke down some concerns and positives from the win over the Nittany Lions. Freshman combo forward T.J. Warren led the way with 22 points and eight rebounds, and junior power forward C.J. Leslie added 14.
The 2-0 Pack will play the winner of UMass/Providence at 5 p.m. Friday.
Below is Gottfried's transcript following the game.
How was it surviving the first half with senior center Richard Howell only playing three minutes due to foul trouble?
"It's kind of that same story again. That first foul, he picked it up 75 feet away from the basket. Those things just come back to haunt him last year. We just have to figure out a way for him to not do that. I don't know what the answer is right now, but that's going to be an issue. We were able to survive it.
"I thought both the freshmen, T.J. [Warren] and Rodney [Purvis] gave us some scoring in the first half that we needed. We are sitting there at halftime, and I think it was a seven-point lead, but Scott [Wood], Richard and Lorenzo [Brown] had combined for two points. We are still up seven. That's a good sign for our team that somebody else can pick that up for us.
"Defensively, we were pretty good at times, really good at times I thought. Then we still get disinterested at moments. We have to get more consistent there."
How was Brown's defense on Tim Frazier of Penn State, who finished with 23 points?
"I thought Lorenzo did a very good job defensively. I thought offensively, he was just in a hurry sometimes. He tried to create some plays that he didn't need to try and create. He got himself into trouble and into traffic. Defensively, he was pretty good.
"For short amount of times, I thought Tyler [Lewis] did a nice job on him. Tyler didn't back down and he got through the screens. They set a lot of screens for him. He's a hard player to guard because he always has the ball, Frazier does, and they are always running the ball screen for him. I thought both those two guys, and Rodney had him for a few trips here and there, but he to work and he had to earn it. He took 20 shots and he got some of those at the foul line late."
How physical was Penn State in contesting things?
"They are going to win some games in the Big Ten, but when we say they are physical, really what is happening a lot of times around the rim, you are going up for a two or three-footer, and there is a lot of contact and a lot of bumping. A lot of those you want fouls or to call a foul. We have to be able to play through that too. We have to play through that physical contact.
"I thought at times, even in the first half, we didn't. We are around the rim trying to lay the ball in. We have to take it in a little bit stronger and concentrate a little harder. Sometimes, we need to take it two hands to the rim, and if they foul, they foul, but dunk that thing. We have to get a little bit better of fighting through that contact. Penn State was pretty physical, so that was good for us to see that in this first game here."
Did the success of the three freshmen surprise you?
"Not really. I think they are good players. What is going to happen, they are going to get better because they are going to learn. T.J. and Rodney, they are still learning the offense. I always say this, you can run it in practice and practice and practice, and then you get in the games, and the lights are on, the popcorn is popping, and all of a sudden guys don't think as well sometimes. So, they are still learning. They are going to figure things out.
"I thought defensively, I thought them both, especially Rodney and T.J., they did some good things. We've already talked about Tyler. T.J. switched on some ball screens when he had to. He made the right decisions defensively. Again, I think they'll get better and better as they get more minutes."
How effective was junior power forward C.J. Leslie in the second half?
"His offensive production was really when we needed it the most. You always say play at your best and be at your best when your best is needed. In that stretch, we really needed him to be. He was aggressive, he got to the rim, and I thought defensively he did a nice job of pressuring 15-to-18 feet away from the basket. I like the fact that again he's efficient - 5 for 8 from the field.
"You look down here again, Richard takes six shots, Calvin eight, Scott six, Rodney seven, Lorenzo 10, T.J. 12. There's some balance in our field goal attempts. You know Calvin could shoot it more and try to score more, but he's such an unselfish guy. He got it done when we needed him to get it done tonight."
Leslie also recovered well at times, don't you think?
"He really did. He's an unselfish player, and that's one thing I've really grown to like about him, and really all these guys. I like the fact that Richard got into a little bit of a flow there in the second half. He didn't play but three minutes in the first half. He got a better flow. Overall, a pretty good first challenge, first test for us. I think this next game [UMass and Providence], both these teams are really good. I've watched UMass here a couple of times, and I really like their team. They're quickness and athleticism. They are a dangerous team. We'll figure out who we play tomorrow. We'll play some good basketball teams here."