Western Michigan at No. 23 N.C. State Noon, ESPN

Sharp shooting powers Pack's early progress

N.C. State implements UCLA offense with increased efficiency

jgiglio@newsobserver.comDecember 29, 2012 

N.C. State's C.J. Leslie (5) shoots over the defense of St. Bonaventure's Marquise Simmons (33) during the first half Saturday, December 22, 2012, at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.

ETHAN HYMAN — ehyman@newsobserver.com

N.C. State’s success shooting the basketball this season is not rocket science.

The Wolfpack leads the country in field goal percentage, making 53.4 of its shots through 11 games heading into Saturday’s game with Western Michigan (noon, ESPNU).

Why?

“We make a lot of shots, that always helps,” senior guard Scott Wood deadpanned.

N.C. State (9-2) has been especially good on its 2-point shots. The Wolfpack has made 57.8 percent of its 2-pointers (273 of 472) and has taken fewer 3-point shots (144) than any team in the ACC.

Coach Mark Gottfried credits the team’s unselfish passing for the high field goal percentage – State averages 14.7 assists per game with point guard Lorenzo Brown leading the ACC with 6.4 per game – but also his team’s understanding of the offense.

“Each guy is taking a high percentage shot for them,” Gottfried said.

Forwards T.J. Warren (68.1), Richard Howell (64.4) and C.J. Leslie (60.4) are all hitting better than 60 percent of their shots.

Brown, who started the season in a shooting slump, has made 19 of 29 field goals (65 percent) in the past three games and boosted his season average to 45 percent.

That’s how the UCLA offense is supposed to work, Gottfried said, with the point guard getting into the lane and the bigs getting high-percentage looks.

“Our team is built to go inside first and then complement that with some perimeter shooting second,” Gottfried said.

Leslie, who scored a career-best 33 points in State’s 92-73 win over St. Bonaventure last Saturday, said the team’s strong shooting is a function of knowledge of the offense.

“We get in positions where we know we can score,” Leslie said. “We know what our game is.”

Since an 8-of-17 effort at Michigan on Nov. 27, Leslie has been on fire in the past five games. He has made 72.7 percent (32 of 44) of his field goals and averaged 19 points per game, after a scoring average of 11.6 in the first six games of the season.

State’s field goal numbers are up from last season. The Pack made 45.8 of its shots last season and 49.3 of its 2-pointers. It shot 50 percent or better in just 12 of 37 games. It has already eclipsed the 50 percent mark nine times in 11 games this season.

A strong FG percentage ranking has been a common trait among the past 11 national champions. Six title teams since 2002 have ranked in the top 10 in FG percentage and nine have ranked in the top 25.

While Gottfried has been impressed with the sharp FG shooting, he would like to see an uptick from the free-throw line. The Pack has made just 64.4 percent (172 of 267) of its free throws ranks No. 278 in the country, out of 345 teams.

“I think we’re a better foul shooting team than that,” Gottfried said.

Gottfried pointed out the free-throw struggles of Warren 44.8 percent (13 of 29) and Rodney Purvis 51.9 percent (14 of 27).

“They are better than that,” Gottfried said. “Some of that is just being a freshman and settling in and getting used to it.”

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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