NC State aims for improvement with healthy Vandenberg

jgiglio@newsobserver.comNovember 25, 2013 

N.C. State, NC State, ACC, basketball, Pembroke, UNC, Reynolds

 NC State senior forward Jordan Vandenberg will be sidelined four to six weeks with a sprained left ankle. Vandenberg sprained his left ankle early in the first half of Wednesday's preseason win over UNC-Pembroke. If the 7-footer's recovery takes the full six weeks, he could miss as many as nine regular-season games.

ETHAN HYMAN — ehyman@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

  • Florida Gulf Coast at N.C. State

    When: 7 p.m.

    Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh

    TV/Radio: ESPN3, 101.5-WRAL

    Projected starting lineups

    Florida Gulf Coast (4-1)

    G Brett Comer 13.8 ppg, 6.0 apg

    G Dajuan Graf 5.8 ppg, 2.4 apg

    G Jamail Jones 10.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg

    F Nate Hicks 6.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg

    F Chase Fieler 14.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg

    N.C. State (2-2)

    G Tyler Lewis 9.0 ppg, 4.8 apg

    G Desmond Lee 14.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg

    G Ralston Turner 10.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg

    F T.J. Warren 19.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg

    F Jordan Vandenberg 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg

    Player to watch

    Brett Comer, guard, FGCU

    The junior point guard has come in since a slow start. he has averaged 19 points and 6.3 assists in the past two games. He was the quarterback of “Dunk City” last season in the NCAA tournament with 31 assists in three games.

    Observations

    N.C. State beat San Diego State and then Georgetown to get to the Sweet 16 in 2012. Florida Gulf Coast beat Georgetown and then San Diego State in 2013 to get to the Sweet 16. ... Former East Carolina coach Joe Dooley replaced Andy Enfield, who left for a big payday at Southern California. ... FGCU orward Nate Hicks is a Georgia Tech transfer, he has started while Raleigh’s Eric McKnight is serving a six-game suspension.

    Joe Giglio

— N.C. State needs to be better, coach Mark Gottfried said, than it was the last time it played.

At the very least, the Wolfpack will be healthier for Tuesday night’s game with Florida Gulf Coast.

After missing the first four games of the season with an ankle injury, senior forward Jordan Vandenberg will play Tuesday, Gottfried said, against the Atlantic Sun team nicknamed “Dunk City” during last year’s NCAA tournament.

Vandenberg’s expected return should provide a boost for a Wolfpack team coming off of a 82-72 overtime loss to N.C. Central six days ago.

“The message I’ve had to our guys is we have to keep getting better,” Gottfried said. “We’ve had a lot of energy and we’ve talked a lot about being resilient and being able to bounce back. So far in the practice setting, our guys have done that.”

Vandenberg returned to practice last Friday and, while not 100 percent, should help a forward rotation of three freshman who have collectively averaged less than 3.0 points per game.

Vandenberg, a 7-footer, has mostly been a reserve throughout his career but he slimmed down in the offseason and started to show promise before he turned his left ankle 5 minutes into the first preseason game on Oct. 30.

“His size and length can help us,” Gottfried said.

But Vandenberg’s return won’t be an instant fix. State’s loss to NCCU last Wednesday was marked by defensive breakdowns and foul trouble. The Eagles took 45 free throws, shooting guard Jeremy Ingram went to the line 21 times and finished with 29 points.

“It’s difficult because guys are still trying to figure out how games are going to be called,” Gottfried said. “We put a team on the line 45 times in a game that wasn’t very physical.”

Defending without fouling was a point of emphasis in practice since the NCCU loss. Adjusting to the way games are being called this season, with NCAA enforcing the rules about contact — on and away from the ball — has been a challenge for the Pack.

“It’s not just with us, but it’s how the game is being called and we have to adjust to it,” junior guard Ralston Turner said.

Turner was one of four Pack starters to foul out against the Eagles. He was also the only State player to make more than one 3-point attempt. As a team, State was 3 of 20 from the 3-point line.

“There were shots that we took that we normally make,” Turner said. “We just need to make sure we knock down more.”

Florida Gulf Coast (4-1) presents another formidable challenge for a young Wolfpack team. The Eagles lost coach Andy Enfield after last season’s Sweet 16 run but still have guard Bret Comer and forward Chase Fieler.

The Eagles also have a history of beating ACC teams. They knocked off Miami, last year’s ACC champion, in an early season game on the road.

Gottfried, who prefers a challenging schedule outside the ACC, said his team has to get used to facing strong, experienced teams.

“We’re going to play against a lot of teams that are similar to the one that beat us in that they’re going to be veteran teams,” Gottfried said.

“You can’t moan and groan about it, there are no excuses. We’ve got to get ourselves better.”

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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