ACC MBB: Wolfpack rebounds to cage Panthers 79-74

David Kehrli, Triangle Sports Network

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David Kehrli

RALEIGH, N.C. – After getting called out for a lack of effort on the defensive end by their head coach following Sunday night’s 86-76 loss to Georgia Tech, the N.C. State Wolfpack responded on Tuesday.

With an obvious improvement in intensity, and with the help of some struggling players, the Wolfpack defeated Pittsburgh 79-74 at PNC Arena.

The effort gave N.C. State its second win in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play.

While at first glance the Wolfpack’s (13-6, 2-4) defensive numbers against the Panthers weren’t great – allowing them to finish with 46 percent field goal shooting and 43 percent from three – State was more active and showed more of an interest in defending than it has recently.

The Wolfpack outrebounded the Panthers 44-30, with 26 of those coming off the defensive glass.

“I thought today we came out and they showed some toughness and some character,” head coach Mark Gottfried said.

“I like that about them. I’m happy for the guys. Again, it’s a process in learning of how to win and what you have to do to win in this league, how hard you got to play every night. How hard you got to play on defense and how well you got to execute your offense.”

That improvement was evident in multiple instances: forcing a shot clock violation, an 8:18 Pitt field-goal drought in the first half, and holding Pitt to zero field goals in the final 4:47 of the game.

“I thought in the first half we guarded them pretty well,” Gottfried said.

“Our zone helped us, our man helped us. I thought our ball pressure was better. We had active hands, active feet. We got a couple deflections. We were completely different obviously than we were a couple nights ago.”

Highlights: N.C. State 79, Pittsburgh 74 – ACC Digital Network (TheACC.com)

State started the game extremely well, holding the Panthers to just 13 percent shooting and one field goal made in the first eight minutes, but that changed for the rest of the game as Pittsburgh went on a 10-2 run to tie the game midway through the half.

Even with the noticeable increase in effort, Pittsburgh hit shots, especially 3-pointers, as the Pack struggled to close out quickly and get a hand up on shooters.

“I thought that one stretch in the second half, I didn’t necessarily think our defense was that bad,” Gottfried pointed out.

“We got to them a second or two late; I just thought they got rolling. They made some tough ones.”

Pitt guard Cameron Johnson, led his team from deep, going 5-for-10 with 17 points, while senior Michael Young went 4-for-9 from range and led all scorers with 25 points.

Wolfpack guard Terry Henderson, who has struggled in his last three games, averaging just eight points, one rebound, and shooting 22 percent from 3-point range, bounced back with 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

Freshman center Omer Yurtseven had his best game of his career, grabbing 16 rebounds and adding 12 points, in what could be a launching point for the rest of his season.

“Omer was fantastic for us tonight,” Henderson said.

“I hope he takes this with him and just keeps moving on with his game. He played well for us.”

Sophomore guard Maverick Rowan, who has shot well of late from behind the arc, going 8-for-15 in his last three games, continued his hot streak with a 6-for-9 performance beyond the arc and 21 total points.

“I was just making shots,“ Rowan said.

“I was thinking before the game that I really haven’t had a breakout game making shots. I was just saying to myself ‘This is going to be the game’, and I came out, made a couple shots and kept getting hot. We ended up winning the game, so this is great for us as a team.”