Quick hits and notes from NC State's 65-53 loss to Northwestern in front of 11,913 fans at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday night as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Play of the game
NC State frantically was trying to come back into the game, but was failing to get the one stop they needed to complete the rally. Northwestern junior guard Michael Thompson in particular took it upon himself to lift the Wildcats to a win. His three-point play off a pick and roll from the top of the key with 1:35 to go gave Northwestern a 60-52 lead. Thompson rubbed off the screen, shaking him loose from junior point guard Javier Gonzalez, and he then elevated for a layup while being fouled by sophomore guard Julius Mays.
Player of the game
Thompson finished the game with a team-high 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 2 of 5 from long range. He hit several significant shots in the second half, including a three-pointer with 11:19 to go in the game to give Northwestern its largest lead of the contest at 47-35. Thompson also made a big layup with 7:34 to go to keep NC State at arm's length at 53-45. His one assist of the game was a big one, too. NC State had cut the lead to 47-43 on a fast break dunk from junior power forward Tracy Smith. Thompson answered by driving and then dishing to an open Alex Marcotullio, a sharp-shooting freshman guard, for a big three-pointer with 8:36 left.
Farnold Degand update
Fifth-year senior guard Farnold Degand suited up for this game, but he never left the bench and did not play. Head coach Sidney Lowe however said after the game that Degand is closer to his return from an academic suspension imposed by Lowe.
Also not playing in this game was freshman power forward Richard Howell, who made his debut Sunday against New Orleans.
The difference in Tuesday's game was simple, shooting. Northwestern shot well, and NC State did not. The Wildcats shot 49.0 percent from the field (24-49) and 42.9 percent from long range (6-14). NC State on the other hand was just 33.9 percent shooting (19-56) and a dismal 11.1 percent from threes (2-18). The Pack had the right players shooting the long range shots, but freshman wing Scott Wood, sophomore guard Julius Mays and sophomore wing C.J. Williams combined to shoot 0 for 12 beyond the arc.
In fact, in the second half, NC State made 9 of 29 shots, and all the made baskets but a Gonzalez three-pointer came from inside the paint. Some of that may have been due to Northwestern's tricky 1-3-1 zone that they effectively employed for much of the second half. Often times, the 5-foot-10 Thompson was on the baseline.
ACC/Big 10 Challenge
NC State is now 5-5 in the challenge, 1-1 against Northwestern. This was their first loss at home in the challenge. This was also State's first ever loss to Northwestern in four tries.
Through six games, NC State has yet to score 70 points or more in a contest. The problem is a lack of scoring outside Smith and senior forward Dennis Horner. Smith poured in 23 points Tuesday night to go with seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Horner added a quiet 11 points, five boards, two blocks and two steals. Gonzalez provided some punch, scoring 10 points and dishing out six assists, a game-high. The rest of the team had just a combined total of nine points, and that came from two players, freshman center DeShawn Painter (four points) and Mays (five points). Two starters, Wood and Williams, did not score a single point.
Spotted at the game
NC State commitment Joseph Uchebo, a 6-foot-9 center from Oak Ridge (N.C.) Military Academy, was in attendance for the second straight game. Also there was the entire team from Creedmoor Christian Faith Center in Raleigh, N.C.
Several notable former NC State athletes were also in attendance. Tim Stoddard, a member of the 1974 championship team and former baseball player, was at the game. He is currently the pitching coach for Northwestern's baseball team.
Two other former players spotted at the game were Cedric Simmons and Trevor Ferguson.
Other stats of note
• NC State forced Northwestern into 16 turnovers, matching their highest total of the young season. The Pack had 13 turnovers. The points off turnovers battle though was even 15-15.
• Both teams had nine steals. Northwestern had nine blocks compared to NC State's six. Northwestern had a slight 7-6 edge in fast break points.
• Northwestern outrebounded NC State 38-31, but State had a 12-10 edge on the offensive glass. The Pack also had a 7-5 advantage in second-chance points.
• The Wildcat reserves outscored NC State's bench 13-9.