Scouting N.C. State
N.C. State (15-11, 5-8 ACC) has undergone a few changes in recent weeks that have altered its look, style and production. Third-year Coach Sidney Lowe opted for a more up-tempo attack, but did so by making his lineup taller and shrinking his rotation. The Wolfpack dropped an 85-78 decision at Wake Forest on Thursday, but N.C. State's improvement was noticeable nonetheless.
After starting its ACC season 2-6, N.C. State is 3-2 in its past five games, thanks in large part to the adjustments Lowe and his players have made.
Seeking improvement on the boards, Lowe reconstructed his lineup in late January in an effort to make it taller. He thrust sophomore forward Tracy Smith (6-foot-8, 240 lbs.) into the starting lineup to supplement forwards senior forward Ben McCauley (6-foot-9, 237 lbs.) and junior forward Brandon Costner (6-foot-9, 231 lbs.). Senior Courtney Fells (6-foot-6, 210 lbs.) moved over from small forward to shooting guard.
With three forwards on the floor and a size advantage in the backcourt, N.C. State now provides matchup problems for most of the teams it faces.
Costner and McCauley lead the way for the Wolfpack. Costner, who possesses perimeter offensive skills, averages a team-leading 14.1 points per game. He is shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 37.6 percent from three-point range. Costner also pulls down 6.2 rebounds per game, and he leads the team in blocks (27) and assists (61).
McCauley leads the team in rebounding (7.9 per game) and is second to Costner in scoring (12.4 per game). He is shooting 54.1 percent from the field.
Fells averages 11.7 points per game and is shooting 39.6 percent from three-point range. Smith averages 9.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Smith also is shooting 53.7 percent from the field.
N.C. State offense operates at a much quicker pace now than it did previously, and it is led by sophomore Javier Gonzalez (5-foot-11, 172 lbs.) and junior Farnold Degand (6-foot-3, 185 lbs.). Gonzalez, who starts, is averaging 5.8 points per game and is tied with Degand for second on the team in assists (55). Degand averages 5.3 points per game.
While the newly-infused up-tempo attack appears to be helping the Wolfpack along, their defense continues to cause them struggles. N.C. State, by design, focuses more on clogging the lane and making it difficult for opponents to score from short- to mid-range than on preventing opponents from taking quality shots along the perimeter.
In ACC play, N.C. State ranks No. 12 in the conference in field goal percentage defense (47.5 percent), No. 11 in steals (6.2 per game) and No. 11 in turnover margin (-3.00).
Along with Degand, freshman forward C.J. Williams (6-foot-5, 203 lbs.) and junior forward Dennis Horner (6-foot-9, 218 lbs.) round out Lowe's eight-man rotation. Horner averages 6.1 points per game and is shooting 45.7 percent from the field. Williams averages 3.8 points per game.
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