Sunday, January 23, 2011

State gets a big win, will go as far as Harrow can take them

There are big games and biggest games and games you simply have to have. Sunday's contest with Miami was just that for N.C. State at an RBC Center where the disgruntled nature of Wolfpack fans was evident in the swath of open seats downstairs.

State won 72-70 but had to hang on after coughing up a 17-point lead in the second half. Coach Sidney Lowe is hardly having an impressive effort this year, and a loss Sunday would have been disastrous for Lowe's tenure. To his credit, his team hung on and played with toughness in the final two minutes.

Miami actually had a 70-69 lead when freshman Ryan Harrow took a tough driving shot that missed badly. But Tracy Smith tipped the ball so hard it ricocheted off the backboard. Then Smith grabbed it, leaned to his right and scooped in a shot with 43.9 seconds left.

Harrow stole the ball at the other end, and C.J. Williams hit one free throw for State with 15.9 seconds left.

State made an impressive defensive stand on the other end. Lowe wisely put Scott Wood on the Canes' Malcolm Grant, who had hit all five of his three-pointers and had 23 points in the game. Grant tried to shoot but Wood cut him off, so Grant made a wild drive and Smith stepped in. Grant's only chance was a tough pass inside a teammate could not handle, and the horn went off with the ball loose.

What was interesting about this game was who did play, and who did not. The debate over point guard, where Lowe had stubbornly clung to Javier Gonzalez, is over. Gonzalez, a scrappy kid with marginal skills, got only nine minutes and Harrow played the critical minutes in the stretch. C.J. Leslie, the talented but erratic freshman, played just 14 minutes against the rugged Canes front. And freshman Lorenzo Brown, who had started most of the season, gave way to Williams in the starting five but still played 22 minutes.

The team that finished the game - Smith, Harrow, Williams, Wood, Richard Howell - is probably State's core five going forward. If the long injury to Smith helped in any way, it is probably that Howell gained critical experience and State saw what Leslie can, and cannot, do.

The official attendance was 15,222, but empty seats are a sure sign of a fan base that is losing faith. N.C. State got a win it coveted against a Miami team that is better than some might think. Harrow learned some hard lessons - like the wild shot he took toward the end - but State has to keep the ball in his hands. He was just 2 of 10 from the floor Saturday but had seven assists. Heck, when Gonzalez played, it seemed like months would go by without him getting seven assists.

When you watch N.C. State, you get the sense that Smith is one of the league's best players, but that this team will go as far as Harrow can take them, and no further.

1 comment:

  1. Good analysis. Did you see in ESPN, the article that stated Calapari decided against coming to State because of the academic requirements? That's a great tribute to NCSU where academics rule. Stand tall NCSU. Wolfie '61