Road test tough for NC State but offers chance to grow

jgiglio@newsobserver.comNovember 11, 2013 

  • N.C. State at Cincinnati

    When: 5 p.m.

    Where: Fifth Third Bank Arena, Cincinnati

    TV/Radio: ESPN, 101.5-WRAL

    Projected starting lineups

    N.C. State (1-0)

    G Tyler Lewis 15.0 ppg, 6.0 apg

    G Desmond Lee 24.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg

    G Ralston Turner 7.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg

    F T.J. Warren 27.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg

    F Kyle Washington 0.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg

    Cincinnati (1-0)

    G Ge’Lawn Guyn 6.0 ppg, 3.0 apg

    G Sean Kilpatrick 22.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg

    F Titus Rubles 13.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg

    F Shaquille Thomas 2.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg

    F Justin Jackson 8.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg

    Player to watch

    Sean Kilpatrick, guard, Cincinnati

    N.C. State guard Desmond Lee will have his hands full with Kilpatrick, who can dominate on both ends of the floor. Cincinnati will never be the most artistic team but it thrives on turning up the defensive pressure and Kilpatrick, a senior who averaged 17 points last season, makes them go.

    Observations: Mark Gottfried and Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin both spent three seasons as the head coach at Murray State. Gottfried took the Racers to the NCAA tournament in 1997 and ’98, while Cronin led the Racers to the dance in 2004 and ’06. … N.C. State owns a 6-1 series record over Cincinnati, with five of the wins coming before 1959. The teams split a home-and-home in 2007 and ’08, with each team winning at home.

    Joe Giglio

Mark Gottfried called himself crazy for scheduling a road game against a dangerous St. Bonaventure team two years ago.

The N.C. State coach feels the same way about the Wolfpack’s trip to Cincinnati on Tuesday (5 p.m., ESPN).

“It’s crazy, but I think it’s good,” Gottfried said. “I think it’s what we need. An early difficult challenge on the road I think will help our team.”

In just the second game of the season, N.C. State (1-0) will play on an opponent’s home floor. Duke won’t do that until January. Gottfried will also take his young team to Tennessee on Dec. 18 before ACC play starts.

Tuesday’s game against the Bearcats (1-0), which is a part of ESPN’s 24-hour hoops marathon, fits Gottfried’s philosophy of scheduling to build a resume for the NCAA tournament.

The 67-65 win against St. Bonaventure was one of the main reasons the Wolfpack got an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament in Gottfried’s first season in 2012.

Cincinnati, a former Big East member now in the American Athletic Conference, has made the NCAA tournament the past three seasons under coach Mick Cronin.

The Bearcats have always been a tough, defensive-minded team and this group is no exception. Senior guard Sean Kilpatrick, who averaged 17 points and 5.2 rebounds last season, had 22 points and seven rebounds in Cincinnati’s season-opening 74-61 win against N.C. Central last Friday.

Gottfried knows the defensive pressure will be turned up compared to the Wolfpack’s 98-77 win over Appalachian State in the opener.

“They do a great job with their press,” Gottfried said. “I told our guards, ‘They’re going to press you from the time you get off the bus. They’re going to be right in (your) grill.’

“And we’ve got to be to handle it.”

N.C. State got 12 assists, to only three turnovers, out of the combination of sophomore point guard Tyler Lewis and freshman point guard Cat Barber against Appalachian State.

The Wolfpack also shot 61.9 percent from the floor in the win. The 98 points are the most any State team has scored since a 100-66 win over East Carolina on Nov. 19, 2004.

Sophomore forward T.J. Warren led the Pack with 27 points, while junior guard Desmond Lee added 24 points. Barber, who missed about a week of preseason practice with a concussion, added 13 points to go with six assists.

Given how much of the scoring from last year’s team Gottfried has to replace, he was encouraged by the offensive output in the group’s first game together.

“I like the fact that we have the potential to score,” Gottfried said. “It doesn’t mean it will happen every night, but at least we know that we can.”

Cincinnati will be a tougher test than Appalachian State, especially on the road. The Bearcats held opponents to 38.7 percent field goal shooting last season and 30.4 percent on 3-pointers.

The Bearcats held N.C. Central to 39.6 percent from the floor (19 of 48) and 21.4 percent from the 3-point line (3 of 14) in the opener.

“We will learn under fire early,” Gottfried said. “Our players are excited about the opportunity to go on the road and play a team like Cincinnati.”

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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