N.C. State Basketball

Pack will test UNC with new emphasis on rebounding

jgiglio@newsobserver.comFebruary 20, 2013 

While North Carolina has switched to a smaller, four-guard lineup, N.C. State is in the midst of going the other way.

In the hopes of getting more rebounding, N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried started three forwards against Florida State on Tuesday night.

Gottfried used freshman T.J. Warren, who’s 6-foot-8, together with forwards Richard Howell (6-8) and C.J. Leslie (6-9) in the starting lineup.

The Wolfpack (19-7, 8-5 ACC) finished the FSU game with a season-best 45 rebounds, including 21 on the offensive glass. The Wolfpack also turned in its most complete ACC win thus far, an 84-66 decision.

Warren grabbed a season-best 13 rebounds and eight on the offensive end. He hadn’t had more than seven total rebounds in an ACC game before Tuesday’s outburst.

Thanks to Warren, N.C. State outscored FSU 29-6 in second-chance points.

Warren, who has only started five games, said Gottfried talked to him before the game being more aggressive on the boards.

“We do have to be a better rebounding team,” Gottfried said after Tuesday’s win.

Howell leads the ACC, and ranks sixth in the NCAA, with 10.9 rebounds per game, but he needs help, Gottfried said.

Leslie added 10 rebounds on Tuesday and also ranks in the top 10 in the ACC in rebounding with a 7.7 average.

N.C. State’s issues have primarily been on the defensive glass. The Wolfpack has given up at least 13 offensive rebounds in 16 games, including five times in ACC play.

N.C. State guards Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood and Rodney Purvis have been anxious to get out in transition and have routinely let Howell handle the rebounding.

The problems happen when the ball bounces away from Howell and there’s no one on the other side of the basket to help.

“I do think at times our team relies on Richard to go get them all,” Gottfried said. “A lot of times we have perimeter guys leaking out, ready to go run the fast break before we have the ball.

“We have to be a team where everybody gets involved in the rebounding part of the game.”

Warren’s minutes have fluctuated in ACC play, as has his production. He has been held scoreless in three different conference games but his 31 points on Tuesday tied for the third-most by an N.C. State freshman.

Warren has had five ACC games with two rebounds or less, including none in 34 minutes in a road loss to Virginia on Jan. 29.

Gottfried recently met with Warren, Purvis and Tyler Lewis about their importance to the team’s success.

Purvis, who has started all but three games this season, played a season-low 12 minutes on Tuesday. Lewis played 10 minutes against FSU, after averaging 30.7 over the previous four games.

The minutes could change again on Saturday in Chapel Hill against the smaller UNC lineup. N.C. State out-rebounded the Tar Heels 42 to 32 in its 91-83 win in Raleigh on Jan. 26. That was before Roy Williams moved guard P.J. Hairston into the starting lineup.

The Tar Heels have won two of three since going with a smaller, quicker lineup. Gottfried hasn’t said how he’ll handle his lineup going forward, just that he needs all three freshmen to be ready, and to be willing to be flexible.

Warren said the freshmen understand the coach’s message.

“We are all just trying to play our roles and try to help the team win the best way we can,” Warren said.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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