Wolfpack zoning in on perimeter improvement

jgiglio@newsobserver.comDecember 3, 2013 

  • Northwestern at N.C. State

    When: 7:30 p.m.

    Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh

    TV/Radio: ESPNU, 101.5-WRAL

    Projected starting lineups

    Northwestern (4-4)

    G Dave Sobolewski 10.1 ppg, 3.5 apg

    G JerShon Cobb 15.1 ppg, 4.8 apg

    G Sanjay Lumpkin 5.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg

    F Drew Crawford 14.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg

    F Alex Olah 8.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg

    N.C. State (4-2)

    G Cat Barber 13.0 ppg, 3.7 apg

    G Desmond Lee 11.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg

    F T.J. Warren 22.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg

    F Lennard Freeman 4.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg

    F Jordan Vandenberg 10.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg

    Player to watch

    JerShon Cobb, guard, Northwestern

    The junior shooting guard put 22 points in losses last week against UCLA and Missouri at the Las Vegas Invitational. He also hit the winning shot in a 63-61 victory against IUPUI on Nov.22.

    Observations

    Former Duke assistant Chris Collins is in his first season as a head coach and his first season at Northwestern. The Wildcats are 4-4 but 0-3 against major conference teams (losses to Stanford, Missouri and UCLA). … The Wildcats won their last game in Raleigh, 65-53 in the 2009 ACC/Big Ten Challenge. They are 6-8 in Challenge play, the Wolfpack is 5-8, including losses in Mark Gottfried’s first two seasons (Indiana in 2011 and at Michigan last season).

    Joe Giglio

— With Scott Wood in the lineup, N.C. State didn’t have to worry about facing a zone defense.

Without Wood, and with the current crop of Wolfpack shooters in a deep freeze from the 3-point line, N.C. State has been getting a heavy dose of zone.

Coach Mark Gottfried expects to see more zone during Wednesday night’s home game against Northwestern in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

N.C. State can’t just set screens and run plays for Wood, who graduated after last season as the school’s career leader in 3-pointers (334). Wood led the ACC in 3-pointers (104) and 3-point percentage (44.1) last season.

N.C. State has struggled from beyond the arc this season, especially the past four games. The Wolfpack has gone 24 of 87 from 3, and just 12 of 57 in the past four games. Its season percentage (27.6) ranks 323rd out of 345 Division I teams.

Junior guard Ralston Turner, who is expected to be one of the team’s top shooters, said confidence is the biggest issue.

“It’s just mental,” said Turner, who made 99 3-pointers in two seasons at Louisiana State. “We have guys on this team who can shoot. We just need to see a few go in. Once we see a few go in, hopefully it will spread around.”

While Wood was counted on for 3-point production during his four seasons, Gottfried put together this season’s roster with more outside options. Turner, guard Desmond Lee, guard Tyler Lewis, guard Cat Barber and forward T.J. Warren are capable shooters, Gottfried said.

The best 3-point shooter on the team is probably freshman walk-on Patrick Wallace, who has made 4 of 5 attempts in limited action.

Barber (3 of 6) has been the only player in the regular rotation to make more than 33 percent of his 3s. Turner (8 of 24), Warren (5 of 19), Lewis (2 of 14) and Lee (2 of 15) have struggled.

“I think our guys are better shooters than their numbers are saying right now,” Gottfried said. “It’s early. I want those guys to step up confidently and make an open shot.”

During Saturday’s 75-56 win against Eastern Kentucky, the Wolfpack struggled against the Colonels’ zone, especially during the first half. N.C. State went 0-for-7 in the first half and trailed 27-21.

N.C. Central provided the template for Eastern Kentucky in its 82-72 overtime win against the Wolfpack on Nov.20. N.C. State made 3 of 20 from 3 in the loss to the Eagles.

Gottfried was encouraged with how his team played in the second half against Eastern Kentucky. The Wolfpack only made two 3s but moved the ball more and got into the interior of Eastern Kentucky’s defense. The Wolfpack ended up with 54 points in the second half and won going away.

Gottfried said the team needs to build off how it attacked Eastern Kentucky’s zone with ball movement and creating open shots.

“We have to the move the ball better, move our bodies better and get inside the zone,” he said.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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