College Basketball Nation: Mark Gottfried
2. Oregon is waiting for Houston transfer Joseph Young to file a waiver to play immediately for the Ducks. Oregon is somewhat confident Young would be approved -- which could give the Ducks a top-tier top seven, with UNLV transfer Mike Moser, returning guards Dominic Artis, Johnathan Loyd, Damyean Dotson, forward Ben Carter and junior college transfer Elgin Cook. Young averaged 18 points a game for Houston. So Oregon could have a much different look if Young can play immediately.
3. NC State continues to respect its past as much as any other program. The Wolfpack went with alum Sidney Lowe after Herb Sendek, but Lowe wasn't able to a build a consistent winner, despite recruiting well. Third-year coach Mark Gottfried isn't afraid to reach back into NC State's past to help forge a future by bringing Wolfpack legend Dereck Whittenburg onto the staff. Whittenburg had been head coach at Fordham and Wagner and, most recently, an ESPN analyst and producer of a documentary, "Survive and Advance," in ESPN's "30 For 30" series. Whittenburg, who has the most famous shot/pass in NC State history, will bring energy to the Wolfpack staff as well as a direct link to the past that current players should and likely will appreciate.
C.J. Leslie decided to take his talents back to NC State. Lorenzo Brown looked the part of an All-American point guard. Richard Howell would anchor the paint. And McDonald’s All-American Rodney Purvis would help, too.
That was the mindset of voters who pegged NC State as the favorite to win the ACC last season.
That didn’t happen.
The Wolfpack finished 11-7 in conference play, good for fourth place. Mark Gottfried’s squad lost to Temple in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
And then, things really fell apart.
Leslie turned pro. Purvis transferred to Connecticut.
In all, Gottfried lost five of his top six scorers.
But the silver lining within the tumult was the return of 6-foot-8 forward T.J. Warren. The former McDonald’s All-American toyed with the idea of playing in the NBA but ultimately decided to return.
He’s the only returning player who averaged double figures in scoring last year.
Last season, Warren was just a young reserve who boosted the talent pool of a team that appeared to have it all.
He’ll enter 2013-14 as the leader of a youthful program facing a sharp turn in projections compared to a year ago.
Warren, a member of the ACC’s all-freshman team (media and coaches), could be the most experienced player in a starting lineup that will be forced to rely on the nation’s 14th-ranked incoming class per RecruitingNation.
Anthony Barber, BeeJay Anya and Kyle Washington are all top-100 kids who will probably start for NC State next season. They’ll look to Warren, a second-year man, for guidance.
It’s a dramatic and unexpected switch for the sophomore. But he’s equipped for it. On the court.
Warren showcased his abilities in multiple matchups last season. He had 31 points and 13 rebounds in a Feb. 19 win against Florida State. He registered 12 points or more in nine of the team’s final 11 matchups.
He shot 52 percent from the 3-point line and 62 percent from the field.
Warren won’t have to carry this program alone.
Veteran guard and LSU transfer Ralston Turner (12.3 PPG in 2010-11) will certainly help.
But this is Warren’s team. The Wolfpack will go as far he takes it.
He’s a durable inside-outside threat that any program would covet. He and his young teammates, however, will enter a gauntlet soon.
The ACC could be the toughest league in America next season. Pitt, Notre Dame and Syracuse will elevate the conference’s profile. But their arrivals also will make life for rebuilding programs such as NC State more challenging.
The grind of ACC play will be a true test for Gottfried’s young crew. And NC State must endure this stretch without much experience.
That’s why Warren’s leadership is just as significant as his production.
An NCAA tournament bid would be considered a surprising success based on the squad’s inexperience.
Warren has to be the anchor. Through everything.
No player in the ACC is facing more pressure right now.
2. NC State has made it clear that coach Mark Gottfried hasn’t heard anything from UCLA. Athletic director Debbie Yow also is quick to remind everyone of the $3.75 million buyout in Gottfried’s contract, which she terms non-negotiable. Much as he got many in the Research Triangle to warm to NC State, Gottfried would fit at UCLA. But it would be too hard for UCLA to pry him out of Raleigh. Multiple sources continue to think the Bruins may have to go with an NBA coach. But there are other options out there -- Washington’s Lorenzo Romar, a former UCLA assistant, hasn’t been contacted; apparently neither has Colorado’s Tad Boyle, who has recruited Los Angeles well. USC, meanwhile, might end up going with a quality coach, albeit not a huge name. Remember, Oregon didn’t get its first choice, but did land a big-time talent in Dana Altman. It can be done.
3. Hofstra athletic director Jeff Hathaway has made it clear he wants a current head coach for its vacancy, according to sources, making it seem more realistic he would lean toward coaches like Iona’s Tim Cluess and/or Tom Moore of Quinnipiac. Quality openings like Old Dominion and Siena remain. Meanwhile, sources close to former UCLA coach Ben Howland anticipate he’ll sit out next season rather than take a job.
DAYTON, Ohio -- NC State was never the sixth-best team in the country. We should probably get that out of the way.
NC State's now-infamous preseason ranking was less the product of the team's quality and more of the hype that accompanies tournament wins and top recruiting classes, particularly when they arrive in tandem, as they did in Raleigh, N.C. Expectations ballooned. They were always unrealistic.
It would be unfair to grade NC State on that curve. It would also be unfair to overlook the brilliance of Temple guard Khalif Wyatt, who scored 31 points, including a 12-of-14 performance from the free throw line, in Temple's 76-72 win Friday -- or to ignore that this is now Temple's eighth win in its past nine games and the best Fran Dunphy’s team has played all season.
It would not be unfair, however, to say that even if the Wolfpack weren't a top-10 team, ultimately they still had a disappointing season; that a No. 8 seed was far less than a team with one of the best offensive arsenals in the country could have achieved, that Friday's first-round tournament exit was an ending far below their considerable talent and that, above all, their defense -- or lack thereof -- was to blame.
"At times we were really good defensively. At times we were not," NC State coach Mark Gottfried said. "This particular team never seemed to get to a point where we could sustain and maintain great defensive effort the entire game."
By halftime, NC State trailed, 38-22. When its offense went quiet -- and it happens to every team at least once in the tournament, though usually not in their very first minutes -- the Wolfpack couldn't get stops.
The second half was better. Lorenzo Brown came alive, T.J. Warren created a pair of turnovers and the Wolfpack started feasting on their typical combination of low-post looks to the tune of 50 points while going 19-of-27 from the field. If anything, the second-half spurt might be even more frustrating for NC State fans, not only because it highlighted their team's inability to stop a totally fearless Wyatt -- who made every big shot and got to the line 12 times (and made 11) in the second half -- but also because it presented such a striking contrast from the first half. Accusations that NC State had attitude issues, that the reason it didn't guard people was because it didn't try, rumbled off and on all year.
Forward Scott Wood testily dismissed that notion in the postgame news conference -- "You can come watch us in practice and tell us if you think the same," he said -- but Gottfried was more open.
"I think this team struggled with a lot of things," Gottfried said. "Number one, we had some immaturity at times. It just seemed hard at times to have everybody buy in all the way. And for us to get better in the future, everybody needs to. Our young guys need to learn that lesson.
"At times this year, that just seemed to be a struggle for our group," Gottfried said. "That was a hard thing for us to overcome basically all year long, from the way we started. Some of the young guys, some of the older guys, and building character every day and doing things right every day, putting the team first, and then personal success and glory comes later. It always does. But you have to trust that. We struggled with some of that this year."
Whatever the intangible root causes, the end result was a defense that ranked 192nd in the country in points allowed per possession (1.017) despite a lineup chock full of lanky, athletic, NBA-coveted talents. At times that talent was enough to get NC State by, but not Friday. Not against Wyatt, a quirky but dominant scoring guard, and not against a less-talented team that nonetheless trusts in him and each other.
On the penultimate possession of the game, before Wyatt iced the game with two free throws, and while NC State players reminded him of the importance of the shots ("they were talking a little bit," Wyatt said), he turned to his teammates assembled near the half-court line and said "I got this."
"They trusted me to to make two shots at the end," Wyatt said. And then he did.
Thus, they understood Virginia’s plight Friday.
And they showed absolutely no sympathy.
Wolfpack wing Scott Wood lit it up from the outside (23 points, seven 3-pointers), big man Richard Howell (12 rebounds, six points) dominated the boards despite a late first-half thigh injury, and forward C.J. Leslie recorded another double-double en route to a 75-56 blowout in the ACC quarterfinals.
The Cavaliers (21-11), who shot only 38.9 percent, got outrebounded by 11 and saw their leading scorer, Joe Harris, make only 4 of his 13 shots, are left to wait and wonder about their bubble hopes. They now have lost three of their past four games.
“If we play like this, we don’t deserve to play in the NCAA tournament,” Virginia guard Jontel Evans said. “If we play the way we play like Duke and Maryland and North Carolina, we should deserve to play.”
And there’s the conundrum for the NCAA selection committee.
While the Cavs boast quality regular-season wins over Duke, NC State, UNC and Wisconsin, they also have seven losses to teams outside of the RPI top 100, including three CAA teams (George Mason, Delaware and Old Dominion) and four of the ACC's worst (Georgia Tech, Boston College, Wake Forest and Clemson).
At the beginning of Friday, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi projected the Cavs as a No. 12 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament, and this loss didn’t help.
“What will be, will be,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “We have some quality wins, we have some bad losses and who knows what will happen. I’m sure people won’t give us much of a chance. The committee will make their decision.
“[Winning] this would have helped and I thought we had the right mindset going in. We prepared hard and knew the keys.”
Even so, NC State dominated from the outset, beating the Cavs at what they are usually known for: defense. The Wolfpack held Virginia to 31.2 percent shooting and just a 1-for-10 tally on 3-pointers in the first half.
The Wolfpack led 30-21 at halftime, and a Wood-centric 11-4 run (he had three 3-pointers) to open the second half gave them a 41-25 cushion. The Cavs never cut to within single digits after that. Not with Howell -- who got kneed in the right thigh twice, but kept battling in the lane despite a limp -- continuing to pull down rebounds. And not with Leslie and Wood continuing to hit shots.
“It was a really good win for our team,” Gottfried said. “I think our team is beginning to find that groove; I think we’re getting in a good spot.”
And a slightly different spot than a season ago, when the Wolfpack knew they had to keep winning to secure an NCAA berth. Although they lost in the ACC semifinals last year, they were the last team announced on the selection show -- and ended up in the Sweet 16.
With even bigger goals in mind this time around, they’re aiming for even bigger wins -- and longer tournament runs.
Which means no sympathy for Virginia, or anyone else.
“No, definitely not,” Howell said, smiling. “We know how it felt, we were in their shoes last year … but our focus is on what we can do.”
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina coach Roy Williams didn’t have to tell point guard Marcus Paige that he needed to play a whole lot better Saturday than the previous time the Tar Heels faced NC State.
And he did.
The freshman, who looked lost and performed like it when the Tar Heels got whipped by the Wolfpack last month in Raleigh, rallied his team with an inspired, confident, 14-point, eight-assist effort during UNC’s 76-65 victory at the Smith Center.
NC State coach Mark Gottfried called Paige’s shots down the stretch Saturday “timely.”
And they were. But not just for that game -- also for the future of a Tar Heels team that finally seems to be putting its pieces together cohesively after switching to a smaller lineup four games ago.
“It’s just confidence and experience -- he has those now," senior guard Dexter Strickland said. “For [Paige] to be able to step up and hit those shots now, that’s huge for us, and where we are as a team.”
Where they are now, at 19-8 overall and 9-5 in the ACC, is third place in the league standings -- a half-game ahead of Virginia (which plays Sunday) and a full game ahead of the Wolfpack (19-8, 8-6). That’s important because only the top four teams earn a first-day bye in the ACC tournament.
And where they are now is looking calmer and more capable, going 3-1 since 6-foot-5 wing P.J. Hairston was inserted into the starting lineup, in place of 6-9 forward Desmond Hubert. The switch has made the Tar Heels faster, put another scorer on the floor, and opened more lanes for both Paige and Strickland to get to the basket.
“I think we’re starting to click more a little bit," Paige said.
“That was the first time I played against a really big-time player, and he got the best of me in that matchup," Paige said. “[But] I couldn’t let him have a big night this time, because he kind of makes their whole offense go. I just wanted to try to contain him and make things as difficult for him as I could. And it ended up working out.”
Brown, still not quite 100 percent after an ankle sprain that sidelined him for two games earlier this month, finished with 12 points and 12 assists Saturday. But this time around, Paige was the aggressor -- especially when it mattered most.
After NC State used a 13-2 run early in the second half to turn a 10-point deficit into a 43-42 lead, Williams used his pull-'em-all approach, and inserted Paige, Luke Davis, J.P. Tokoto, Jackson Simmons and Hubert to give his more-used players a few minutes to ponder their lack of focus. Paige hit a 3-pointer -- a key shot considering Wolfpack wing Scott Wood countered with back-to-back 3s to extend his team’s run to 19-5.
But it was a few minutes later, with State still leading 55-52, when Paige really made his presence felt.
During what would become an 18-2 breakaway, and with the regulars back on the floor, he buried a 3-pointer to give the Tar Heels a 57-55 lead. After two Leslie McDonald free throws and a Reggie Bullock 3, he drove past Wood for a three-point play. And after another Bullock 3-pointer, Paige buried two free throws to give his team a comfy 70-57 cushion with less than four minutes left.
“I just think you’ve got to be able to step up and make big shots in times like that," Paige said. “And if defenses are going to leave you open, they’re challenging you to make shots like that. So to step up and make shots like that, that was big for me.”
And his team.
Bullock, who finished with a game-high 22 points and a career-high-tying 13 rebounds, also was big for UNC. As was the fact that NC State star forward C.J. Leslie finished with as many turnovers as points (6), and that the Tar Heels scored 24 points off turnovers (the Wolfpack had 16 for the game).
But Paige’s obvious growth since the previous time he faced NC State on Jan. 26 pulled it all together. It kept the rival Wolfpack from sweeping the Tar Heels for the first time since 2002-03. And it propelled the Tar Heels to their third consecutive victory.
He needed to improve. He knew it. And he did.
“My freshman is a tough little nut," Williams said. “And he’s getting better and better.”
“There’s no question I hate to lose against anybody, but especially somebody that just -- they had us by 28,’’ Williams said. “Last game, everybody said ‘It was a great comeback. But I don’t care about that, they had us by 28.”
Indeed, the Wolfpack led by as many as the aforementioned 28 points on Jan. 26 before UNC made a late push to close to within five; State's win snapped a 13-game skid against the Tar Heels.
Saturday at the Smith Center, State will by trying for its first regular-season sweep of UNC since the 2002-03 season something Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried reminded his team about via dry-erase board earlier this week.
With roughly two weeks to go in the regular season, there will be plenty on the line in this one, from momentum to seeding ramifications (State, UNC and Virginia are all knotted in third place at 8-5 in the conference standings, and only the top four seeds earn a first-day bye in the ACC tournament).
And, of course, there's pride.
“It’s a big-time rivalry within the state of North Carolina,’’ said UNC wing Reggie Bullock, who grew up in Kinston, N.C. “We lost to them to first time, so we definitely have to get our face back, and get out there and play harder.”
A few things to watch during the game, which tips off Saturday at the Smith Center at 4 p.m. ET:
BIGGER VS. SMALLER
NC State has gone bigger with its lineup, inserting 6-foot-8 freshman T.J. Warren to play alongside 6-8 Richard Howell and 6-9 C.J. Leslie in a move that has improved the Wolfpack’s rebounding. Gottfried said Friday he plans to stay with that frontline.
UNC, meanwhile, has gone smaller with its opening five, inserting 6-5 P.J. Hairston instead of 6-9 Desmond Hubert; the four-guard lineup has given the Tar Heels more scoring and confidence, and Williams said he'll stay with his newest first five, as well.
“We’ll still go with that same lineup tomorrow, but I really foresee the fact that we’ll play two big guys together a bit more,” Williams said Friday.
“... If they have two big inside players who take the ball to the basket against big guys, they’re really going to take the ball to the basket against little guys. So it really is something we’re concerned about.”
Williams said UNC will start out with Hairston defending Leslie, 6-9 James Michael McAdoo on Howell and 6-7 Bullock on Warren.
UNC may also have the option of inserting 6-9 wide-body reserve Joel James, who missed the last three games because of a concussion. James practiced Thursday and Friday, Williams said, “so we’ll just have to see after practice today whether he has his conditioning back enough to play in the game. He was out for 10 days or something like that, so it’s going to take him a little while.”
Gottfried said earlier this week that Brown is back to about 90 percent after missing two games because of a sprained left ankle; the junior has averaged 13 points and 6.6 points in the three games since he returned.
Williams said he thinks State is a better team because of the adversity it faced, playing without its star ball handler.
“Yeah, they lost a couple or something like that [actually, the two games when Brown was sidelined], but they bounced back, they played better, gave Lorenzo a little break there, and it looks to me like he’s back to 100 percent,’’ Williams said. "It gave them a little more depth, because they brought [freshman point guard] Tyler Lewis in and got more confidence in him, and I think T.J. just gives them another scoring option -- and a scoring option from anywhere on the court.”
UNC's sophomore forward ended up with with 13 points and 11 rebounds during the Tar Heels' loss at State, but played only 25 minutes after picking up two quick fouls. He’ll have to play both smart and aggressively against Howell, who leads the ACC in rebounding (10.9 per game) and is averaging a double-double (13 points).
In addition, the Tar Heels would like to see McAdoo's offensive numbers look more like the ones he recorded at Georgia Tech on Tuesday (20 points) than his previous three games (an average of 8.0).
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Beating North Carolina, NC State coach Mark Gottfried knows, doesn’t guarantee his team anything. It could still win big. Lose late. The Wolfpack already have done both; and anything in this long, strange ACC season can still happen.
"But for tonight, this one night, it does give us a step in the right direction," the second-year Wolfpack coach said after his 18th-ranked team topped the Tar Heels, 91-83.
For all of State’s accomplishments this season -- a top-10 preseason ranking, a 10-game winning streak, an upset over No. 1 Duke -- there’s something extra significant to this particular victory.
Since the late 1980s or so, NC State has served as an oft-forgotten stepbrother to Duke and UNC in the Triangle, an "other guy" status that made Wolfpack fans seethe but foes simply shrug.
But by beating the Tar Heels for the first time since 2007 (snapping a 13-game losing streak), and topping both of their Tobacco Road rivals for the first time since 2002-03, the Pack not only tossed another monkey off their back, but perhaps their hat back into the ring.
"We feel like this is a chance to make history right now, a step forward," said senior Richard Howell, who had never beaten the Tar Heels until Saturday. “It’s been one-sided a lot between Duke and UNC and NC State, and now we’re part of the change.”
After a midweek loss at Wake Forest led to a clear-the-air Wolfpack team meeting, there was a mingled sense of revelry and relief at PNC Arena after the victory.
State -- with its balanced offense and exuberant crowd -- dominated from the outset, using its bigger frontcourt of Howell and C.J. Leslie to get UNC forward James Michael McAdoo into foul trouble early (two in the first two minutes) and its junior point guard, Lorenzo Brown, to discombobulate Tar Heels freshman Marcus Paige often.
Playing what Gottfried called "our most fundamentally sound defense of the season" in the first 20 minutes, State outscored UNC 20-0 on fast-break points by halftime (thus beating the Tar Heels at their own usual game), and it led by as many as 28 points with 13 minutes, 22 seconds left -- because it refused to stop pushing.
"Our message at halftime was: We did not want our players to become passive," Gottfried said. "We wanted to attack them, and run and run and run."
But the Tar Heels, who had won three straight after starting the ACC season 0-2, finally chipped back with a barrage of outside shots. Sophomore P.J. Hairston’s 3-pointer, followed by McAdoo’s follow dunk, cut State’s lead to as little as 85-80 with 28 seconds left.
But senior guard Scott Wood -- yet another player in the Wolfpack’s arsenal -- made two free throws to push the cushion back to seven points.
It wasn’t easy down the stretch. But it was a win.
"It was a butt-kicking is what it was," said UNC coach Roy Williams, whose team is still trying to find an identity after losing four of last season's starters to the NBA draft.
"I’m not big into moral victories," he added, referring to his team’s rally. " ... NC State was more prepared, had a greater since of urgency, worked harder."
Indeed, in the end, the Wolfpack dominated almost every category of the game: points in the paint (44-34), fast-break points (39-19), rebounding (36-29), assists (22-21), shooting (49.2 percent)
Hairston led the Tar Heels with 19 points, but three Wolfpack players finished with double-doubles: Howell (16 points, 14 rebounds), Leslie (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Brown (20 points, 11 assists). Freshman T.J. Warren also chipped in 19 points, and Wood finished with 12.
Asked about the next step in his team’s progression, Howell said it was to keep improving its defense, win more ACC games than last year.
Added Wood: "We have to keep moving on, and when you get them down 28, you try to get them down 48. We’ve just got to continue to get better; we can't be satisfied."
That is, after enjoying this win. For a night, at least. Finally.
After all, it has been a long time coming.
"I don’t know about its cultural significance, but I just know that our program has lost a lot of games to North Carolina," Gottfried said. "And they’ve been great, give them credit. They are good, and have been good; we’re trying to get good. We’re trying to climb up the mountain, and at some point, you’ve got to turn it a little bit. And this is a start."
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Imitation is the highest form of flattery, except, like a tree in a forest, does the flattery count if the imitator doesn’t know what he has copied?
Dereck Whittenburg will never buy a drink or even a seat when his alma mater is around. He showed up Wednesday at NC State’s game at Maryland unannounced but was warmly welcomed to a courtside seat anyway.
That’s how it goes when you remain part of the most iconic clip in any March Madness highlight reel. It was nearly 30 years ago that Whittenburg launched the air ball that ended up in the hands of Lorenzo Charles, who gave the Wolfpack an improbable national championship against Houston and sent Jim Valvano desperately and wonderfully searching for someone to hug.
But 30 years might as well be 300 to 19-year-olds whose long-term memory must be encapsulated in 140 characters.
And so when Alex Len, who dropped in Pe'Shon Howard's air ball with 0.9 seconds left, was informed that he had just turned the ironic tables on NC State, making like Charles to Howard’s Whittenburg to beat the Wolfpack, the Maryland sophomore was baffled.
“I didn’t know that," the Ukrainian-born Len said. “I don’t know about that game. I’ve never heard of it."
Here’s hoping he hit Google before hitting his pillow.
Because while neither the Terrapins’ 51-50 victory over NC State nor Len’s heroics enter the zip code of Whittenburg/Charles circa 1983 importance, in context of the here and now, this was big for Maryland.
The Terrapins earlier this season won 13 games in a row and earned a collective meh from the basketball cognoscenti. The best win in that run? Stony Brook, RPI 96.
And when Maryland entered ACC play and promptly lost to Florida State and Miami, most figured the Terps were exactly what they appeared -- a fun house mirror of accomplishment.
This game was a show-me game, one to give people a reason to believe there is some meat on the Terps’ 14-3 record.
So feel free to criticize the student court-storming -- because hey, college students acting goofy and crazy is unusual and all -- but this was more cathartic than celebratory.
It had been almost three years since the Terrapins beat a ranked team (topping Duke in 2010), and while this does not ink Maryland into the NCAA tournament or even offer the promise of a win in its next game (against North Carolina), it’s a step.
And steps right now are huge.
It is one bad, but not lethal, thing for NC State.
Every game is something of a testing ground for the Wolfpack (14-3, 3-1 ACC) this season. Lauded early and heaped with expectation, NC State almost has to prove its value nightly. And so beating Duke became a must-win, and then winning here -- to prove that the team has the maturity to keep its head after a big victory -- was a must-win.
Instead, the Pack go home with a loss during which their usually fluid offense was rendered impotent and they never looked in sync or terribly aggressive.
It will raise some questions -- and some valid ones -- but it certainly doesn’t doom NC State.
“They all count as one," coach Mark Gottfried said. “I always say that, and there is a lot of truth to that. I’m not into the whole validating Duke thing. There are going to be teams that will finish near or at the top of this league that are going to lose some road games. We’re going to move on from it. I loved our effort, and we’re going to pick ourselves up and play on Sunday."
Strangely, Gottfried sounded almost more at ease with the loss than Turgeon did with the win.
Turgeon actually apologized at one point for not sounding more Pollyanna-positive after this victory. He had pointed out, in no particular order, how his team was 0-for-timeouts, failing to execute a single play he drew up during a break, including the final one (“It was supposed to be an up-screen, and they down-screened," he said); how his team remains so bewildered nearly three months in that he can’t risk giving players more information than they can handle and so his play calling remains fairly pedestrian; and how his team’s offense is anemic and he frankly has no clue why.
But Turgeon is brutally -- refreshingly? -- honest. His young team -- the Terps, now 2-2 in conference, start two freshmen and three sophomores -- is hardly a finished product, and anyone who walked out of the Comcast Center 100 percent convinced that Maryland had arrived isn’t paying attention.
Before the month is out, the Terrapins will go to North Carolina, Duke and Florida State, and all this good mojo might evaporate in a hurry.
So Turgeon is searching for signs and steps -- and in this game, he got a few.
“We grew up a little bit," he said. “It was a gut-check. We call it a hugger. There was a lot of hugging in the locker room, and it’s nice to have that."
The offense isn’t good -- these 51 points come on the heels of 47 points against Miami -- and there are plenty of mistakes to keep Turgeon active in the film session.
There’s also this: When it came time to win the game, Howard ran the wrong play, but he drove the ball. Against Florida State and against Kentucky, the Terrapins took jump shots and lost.
And when Howard’s ball floated in the air, Len was in the right position.
“My guy had gone over to help a little bit, and I was open," Len said of the first game-winning shot in his basketball life. “I honestly don’t remember it. I just grabbed the ball and put it back. Coach told me to go get the ball, so I did."
Whittenburg always joked that his shot was a pass, well designed and perfectly executed.
In the locker room after the game, Howard cracked the exact same joke.
Video evidence, of course, shows the contrary -- that both Charles and Len were in the right place at the right time.
Charles’ shot rewrote history.
As for Len’s shot? We’ll have to see whether it alters the course and confidence for a young Maryland team.
But it’s a step.
RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina State point guard Lorenzo Brown admits there may have been a flashback or two, with about 5 1/2 minutes left Tuesday night, when Stanford cut the Wolfpack’s once-17-point lead to seven.
“In the back of my mind, I was thinking, ‘I don’t want this to happen again. I don’t want to lose to them two years in a row,’” he said.
So the junior helped make sure they didn’t. Brown scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half at PNC Arena -- including four points during the closeout stretch -- to lead the Wolfpack to its fourth consecutive win (88-79), and perhaps help dull the memories of State’s double-digit West Coast meltdown a year ago.
It was, by far, Brown’s most aggressive game of the year -- a good sign for a 25th-ranked team that finally seems to be putting its talented pieces together after it started the season in the top 10, but slid down the rankings after losses to Oklahoma State and at Michigan.
“I just took it upon myself,” said Brown, who shot 9-for-15, and also had 5 assists, 4 turnovers and a steal. “I know our team needed some quick buckets. They [the Cardinal] were coming down and shooting all types of 3s. So I took it upon myself to make good shots.”
Indeed, State led by as much as 69-52 with 9:19 left, on a jumper from Brown. But the Cardinal (which got 23 points from forward Dwight Powell) countered with a 12-2 run to cut it to 71-64 -- just enough to harken back to last season, when Stanford used a late 16-1 run to overtake the Wolfpack on the West Coast.
This time around, however, NCSU senior big man Richard Howell countered with a layup, followed by a jumper from forward C.J. Leslie and another layup by Brown.
That, along with sharpshooter Scott Wood’s bevy of lane-opening 3-pointers in the first half, was an example of NC State’s veterans coming together to do what they do best, all at the right time.
And the same time.
“They’ve been in games like this,” Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried of his lineup, which returns four starters from last March’s Sweet 16 team. “Throughout their careers, they’ve been in some wars like this. And we expect them to be good in wars like this.”
And now they have been, twice in the past four games with victories against two power-conference opponents in Connecticut (69-65) and Stanford.
“I’m excited,” Gottfried said. “I think it is another win against a team that is going to win a lot of games this year.”
Plus it’s a confidence boost for Brown, who didn’t even start playing point guard full time until last season. (Not that you’d know it by the way he used his size advantage, length and court vision.)
“He reminds me of a guy who used to play back in my time … Sleepy Floyd,” said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins, whose team’s winning streak was snapped at three. “ … He’s a terrific player. He has great size, he can really shoot the basketball, he can play the 1, and he creates all sorts of problems for you because he can post you up, because he’s a 6-5 point guard. He can shoot overtop of smaller guards. He handles the ball well to get to places on the floor that are difficult.
“He’s a very talented guard, and based on what I’ve seen today, he’s one of the best guards in the country.”
Brown -- who was also 7-for-8 with 16 points against Norfolk State last Saturday -- said his squad is also still capable of being one of the best teams in the country, if it can continue to build off wins like Tuesday and learn from the memories of bad games in the past.
“Once Scott’s hitting 3s like that, it opens it up for everybody else,” Brown said. “Then you’ve got Rodney [Purvis], who’s faster than anybody I’ve seen. You can’t do much about about C.J. and Richard, so we can be ‘dangerous’ -- that’s the right word.”
The senior forward came out of the game at the dead ball, staggered back to the bench, sat down and was given a full workup by the North Carolina State athletic training staff.
They tested his balance, eyesight and strength to see if he had suffered a concussion.
He didn’t. Howell said he was scared for a moment, since he had suffered a concussion against Maryland as a sophomore.
The tingling and the numbing in his upper body had him nervous. But it started to subside and all he had was a stinger in his shoulder. He told Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried that he could play in the second half.
If Howell continues to play the way he did in the second half against Connecticut on Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic, the Wolfpack have a shot to live up to their expectations.
Howell had a double-double -- in the second half -- with 11 of his 13 points and all of his 10 boards coming in the final 20 minutes of NC State’s much-needed 69-65 victory over the Huskies at Madison Square Garden.
“He’s our blue-collar guy, our most consistent guy except for when he gets in foul trouble," said NC State assistant coach Bobby Lutz. “He gives us great energy. He’s undersized, but he’s relentless and has great enthusiasm and productivity."
Guard Lorenzo Brown, wing Leslie and sharpshooter Scott Wood were NC State’s headline names heading into the season, along with freshman Rodney Purvis. Howell tended to be overlooked.
But if the Wolfpack are to be ACC champs as predicted, Howell must be the anchor of this team. NC State hadn’t played well yet, losing badly to Oklahoma State in Puerto Rico, nearly dropping a game to UNC-Asheville and then losing respectably at Michigan last week.
The Huskies didn’t defend the Wolfpack well but still knocked NC State back a number of times. That is, until Howell became a beast on the boards.
“He’s a monster," said Wood. “What can I say? He’s the best rebounder out there. He’s a great player for us. He works so hard in practice, and if he keeps doing what he’s been doing, we’re going to be a dangerous team."
If Howell doesn’t play in the second half, the Huskies might have won this game, with Enosch Wolf playing well enough inside to cause NC State fits. Had NC State lost this game, there would have been ample second-guessing about the true potential of this squad.
“Whatever coach wants me to do to be a difference-maker, I’ll do it," said Howell. “This was huge for us. It’s definitely a step closer to what we want to be. We lost to Oklahoma State, Michigan and didn’t beat UNC-Asheville by what we should have. We learned from it and progressed."
Duke is the class of the ACC. North Carolina is young, inexperienced and a bit of an unknown right now. NC State is in line with Miami, Maryland and suddenly surging Virginia Tech in a wide-open ACC race come January.
NC State still has oodles of talent but will succeed only if Howell is a constant presence in the paint. The flash plays by Leslie and Purvis, the 3-pointers by Wood or the drives by Brown (although he still turns the ball over too much) are all necessary. But none of it is as important as Howell patrolling the paint.
Reaching the Sweet 16 last season was a surprise. But if the Wolfpack are going to replicate that run, they must defend the drive, shore up on 3s and control the backboard more effectively. Gottfried said before the game that he was still figuring this club out as the veterans adapt to the heralded newcomers. Howell showed his teammates his toughness Tuesday by playing through pain and discomfort. NC State is a work in progress, which puts even more emphasis on such a valued talent.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It is an adjustment that could seem massive, but it became subtle the second Michigan sophomore point guard Trey Burke saw what he was working with.
Having made the decision to spurn the NBA for a second year in college, he showed up for summer open gyms, watched his new and returning teammates, and figured his role could change slightly this season.
How else to explain how, in just one half, Burke tied his career high for assists in a game, during No. 3 Michigan’s 79-72 victory over No. 18 North Carolina State on Tuesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Oh, he didn’t score in the half, either.
A scoreless Burke, even for a half, might have led to a Michigan loss last season. It almost certainly would have led to a major struggle for the Wolverines back then.
“Oh, that would have been difficult,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “But with nine assists, though, at the end of those nine assists, someone is scoring.”
This season, it is merely part of the transformation, when arguably the nation’s best point guard can distribute first, second, third and fourth, take only two shots in a half, and find guys open nine times for baskets, and his team could lead for the majority of the half anyway.
Part of the reason is Michigan’s growing options. Burke -- who finished with his first career double-double at 18 points and 11 assists, and no turnovers -- can pick apart a defense, and hit shooters and post men over and over again with the confidence that they’ll make shots.
Consider the options on this Wolverines team. At one point in the first half, Michigan’s fourth-, fifth- and sixth-leading scorers -- Nik Stauskas, Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary, respectively -- scored a combined 18 consecutive points.
“Today, the team needed me to get guys going early on, and that opened it up for us in the second half,” Burke said. “I was able to get in the paint and hit guys, get in the paint and hit floaters.
Beilein didn’t want to say this team has more options than any other in his 21 seasons coaching in Division I, mainly because his other good teams would argue with him.
But the type of depth the Wolverines have has turned Michigan from a nice team that could compete with most squads into one NC State coach Mark Gottfried labeled “legitimate” multiple times -- as in, legitimately one of the nation’s top teams.
The depth starts with Stauskas, who entered the game as Michigan’s fourth-leading scorer and had a team-high 20 points Tuesday, including scoring 13 points on four shots at one point in the first half.
While junior guard Tim Hardaway Jr. is the player on this Wolverines team who can score in multiple ways, Stauskas is the one who stretches the floor every time he is on it, opening up the post for Morgan, McGary and Jon Horford along with driving lanes for Hardaway and Burke.
“When I make a couple of 3s, no one really helps off me,” Stauskas said. “Trey can get into the lane a lot easier. Even when the bigs get the ball in the post, no one is going to squash down on them.
“I feel like when I make 3s, it helps the whole team out.”
Stauskas scored 17 points in one exhibition game and led Michigan in scoring. While the game meant nothing to Michigan, it meant a lot to Stauskas, who has built off of it each contest since.
Despite seeing far fewer shots than he had in summer basketball or in high school at St. Mark’s in Massachusetts, his form never left. Neither did his confidence. If anything, Stauskas has to be reminded of it every so often from his distributor, Burke.
“I tell him when I hit you and you're open, shoot the ball,” Burke said. “Sometimes he pump-fakes or dribbles. Shoot the ball.”
He has. And on a Michigan team still learning how good it potentially could be, Stauskas has become yet another option.
2. NC State coach Mark Gottfried, fresh off signing his new six-year contract, said there was definitely a new bounce in the step for freshman Rodney Purvis. Purvis received clearance last week to play this season instead of just practicing. Gottfried said that Purvis’ position was the missing piece on the Wolfpack’s trip to Spain in August.
3. Meanwhile, UCLA is still waiting on eligibility decisions on freshmen Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad. There is still time and if either or both are cleared by Oct. 12 or even Nov. 9 then no one will think twice about the prolonged clearance process. If they get game penalties or worse than it will have a dramatic effect on the Bruins’ season.