Good things happen when Dennis Smith Jr. takes the ball to the basket. That was clear again in N.C. State’s 93-88 loss to Wake Forest.
Smith got to the foul line 11 times and most of his 13 assists came when he drove and found an open teammate. He actually should have had three more assists.
With all of the fouls, Smith only finished with nine field goal attempts, tied for his fewest in an ACC game. He finished 3 of 9 with a dunk, after a steal, in transition and two of his made baskets were after he took the ball to the basket.
Smith was 0 for 3 from the 3-point line, the last attempt came at the final buzzer from about 25 feet and was meaningless. His other 3-point attempts were catch-and-shoot attempts from each wing.
Smith did cut down on his step-back attempts. He only had one, near the end of the shot clock from the left side of the top of the key (No. 5 on the shot chart). For the season, Smith is 4 of 23 (17.4 percent) on step-back attempts this season, compared to 16 of 24 (66.7 percent) when he takes the ball to the basket.
Foul trouble hampered Smith against Wake Forest, he picked up his second foul at 11:24 in the first half and went out for about 2 minutes. The Wolfpack saw its nine-point lead erased with Smith dealing with foul trouble. Smith also had early foul trouble at UNC on Jan. 8. It will be interesting to see if he can stay out of foul trouble at Duke on Monday night.
It will also be interesting to see how Duke defends Smith. Coach Mike Krzyzewski threw a bunch of different looks at N.C. State point guard Cat Barber last season in the game in Durham but in the ACC tournament, Krzyzewski just had his team play Barber straight up. It will be interesting to see what Jeff Capel does in Krzyzewski’s absence. Either Frank Jackson or Matt Jones figures to spend a lot of time on Smith on Monday.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio