Mark Gottfried gave new meaning to the concept of “teachable moment” in the second half of N.C. State’s 88-70 win over South Alabama on Sunday.
The Wolfpack coach snapped a clipboard over his knee in the team huddle after some defensive lapses against the Jaguars’ outside shooters.
“Just teaching our guys some things,” Gottfried said with a smile.
The Wolfpack was already in control of the game when Gottfried turned the clipboard into kindling but his message was clear to his players.
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“He knows he can get to us like that and get us focused and fired up,” said sophomore Caleb Martin, who led the team with 19 points.
After a season-opening loss to William & Mary on Friday, and after the Jaguars made it a two-point game with 4:28 left in the first half, the Wolfpack (1-1) needed a little more juice.
“The first half was kind of sluggish but in the second half we came out and the crowd got into it and everybody was just engaged,” junior point guard Cat Barber said. “When everybody is engaged, we feed off that.”
Barber nearly had a triple-double with 17 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. He even knew what was coming after Gottfried had talked about how he wanted the players to defend in a 2-3 zone.
“Then we still didn’t do what he wanted and he was kind of mad,” Barber said. “That’s not the first time he did that, though. That’s like probably the 12th.”
N.C. State lost track of a couple of South Alabama shooters in the zone, which led to Gottfried's ire. The Jaguars made nine 3s on the game, on 26 attempts, which kept them within shouting distance in the first half.
“We went to our zone defense and they sometimes think it’s a ‘high-school zone,’ where you can stand there and just hope the other team misses,” Gottfried said.
The way N.C. State finished the game, with more energy in the second half on both ends, and balanced scoring was more to Gottfried’s liking.
Freshman wing Maverick Rowan, starting for the injured Terry Henderson, had 15 points and sophomore forward Abdul-Malik Abu contributed 14.
After Friday’s loss to an experienced, well-coached William & Mary team, N.C. State needed to bounce back. And the Wolfpack needed to figure out how to play without Henderson, who hurt his ankle early in Friday’s game and will miss six to eight weeks.
The Jaguars, who went 1-10 against Division I teams outside the Sun Belt Conference last season, provided little resistance at the outset.
The way the game started, it looked like N.C. State was trying to erase the memory of the William & Mary game. The Wolfpack scored the game’s first nine points, a contrast to the 23-5 hole they fell into against the Tribe on Friday.
But South Alabama, 12-21 last season, was able to take advantage of foul trouble on Abu and push the Wolfpack in the first half.
A 3-pointer by South Alabama forward Don MuepoKelly cut N.C. State’s lead to 28-26 with 4:24 left in the first half.
N.C. State responded with a 3 from Martin and a layup by Lennard Freeman to stretch its lead back to 33-26.
A 3 by Rowan to start the second half, and then two more by Martin, finally gave N.C. State some breathing room at 56-44 at 12:04 in the second half.
Abu, after only playing 7 minutes because he had three fouls in the first half, was able to stay on the floor in the second half and had 10 of his 14 points.
He had a few big dunks, and a pass to fellow big man BeeJay Anya for a slam, to add some energy into the building.
The way N.C. State pushed in the final 7 minutes, and tracked South Alabama on defense, holding the Jaguars to 33.3 percent from the floor (11 of 33), was more of what the coach wants to see.
“We’ve got a lot to teach, we’ve got to learn,” Gottfried said.
His players passed “Clipboards 101” on Sunday.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio