RALEIGH — Long Beach State was the latest team to play zone against N.C. State.
Just like N.C. Central, Eastern Kentucky and Northwestern, the 49ers backed off freshman guard Anthony Cat Barber on the perimeter and gave him plenty of room to shoot.
That was a mistake. Barber scored 19 points and hit a pair of 3-pointers in N.C. States 76-66 win over the Niners on Saturday afternoon at PNC Arena.
Barbers 3-pointer at the 7:39 mark in the second half, after the Niners had cut the Wolfpacks lead to six points, gave N.C. State (6-2) control of the game for good.
It was also a gratifying shot for Barber, the McDonalds All-American from Hampton, Va. known for his quickness (hence the nickname) and ballhandling, more so than his jumper.
Im tired of everybody saying, Make him shoot, Barber said. Im fixing to bring it out and let everybody know that I really can shoot.
Since moving into the starting lineup against Florida Gulf Coast on Nov. 26, Barber has shot better than 50 percent (21 of 41) from the floor and averaged 5.0 assists per game. More importantly to Barber, the Wolfpack has gone 4-0.
Barber has been steadily making progress since missing eight preseason practices with a concussion. He said hes at 100 percent and he feels more comfortable on the court.
I had to play catch-up, Barber said. Each game Ive gotten better,and each practice, Im getting better.
The Wolfpack needed Barbers outside game against a persistent Long Beach State team. The 49ers (1-9) have lost nine straight but have done so against a name-brand list of major conference opponents.
Guard Mike Caffey (16 points) cut N.C. States lead to 50-49 with a three-point play at 12:41 in the second half.
N.C. State responded with an 11-2 run, which started with a three-point play by T.J. Warren (23 points) and two field goals from freshman forward Kyle Washington.
A pair of free throws from Desmond Lee at 9:31 stretched N.C. States lead to 61-51. David Samuels missed a dunk for Long Beach, but he followed up a bankshot by Branford Jones with a bucket and suddenly it was 61-55.
That was a grinder; we just never seemed to get a real good flow offensively, but we did what we needed to do to win, N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said.
Gottfried praised the play of Barber, who also had four assists.
For a young freshman, hes doing really well, Gottfried said. He is getting more comfortable and learning what we want to do.
Barber and Lee both had 11 points at the half and helped the Wolfpack take a 36-29 lead at the break.
Lee, who finished with 15 points, said N.C. State is starting to find its groove and Barber is a big part of that.
Hes playing at a high level right now, Lee said.
That includes Barbers outside shooting.
Hes a better shooter than a lot of people give him credit for, Lee said. A lot of people play back off of him because hes really quick, but when his feet are set, it goes down every time.