Thirty-six NBA scouts attended N.C. State’s 85-60 loss at Louisville on Sunday.
They were there for Wolfpack freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. They got a show from Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell instead.
Smith had his lowest-scoring output of the season (eight points) while Mitchell poured in 28.
Smith said he didn’t play with enough energy. He never could quite get into the flow of the game. He didn’t take a shot in the first 4 minutes of the game and didn’t score his first basket until the 11:37 mark.
Some of Smith’s problems were his own, as he said. He wasn’t aggressive enough and didn’t have — to use N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried’s word — the same “zip” as he did at Duke on Jan. 23.
Louisville didn’t help Smith’s cause, either. The Cards pressed to disrupt N.C. State’s offense. They switched and doubled off of screens in the halfcourt and mixed in some zone.
And, just like Smith’s other subpar ACC game at UNC on Jan. 8, early foul trouble hurt him, too. After Smith was fouled in front of Louisville’s bench on an out-of-bounds play at 10:01, he was called for a technical.
He didn’t exactly get his money’s worth on the call, either. Louisville’s Ryan McMahon was called for the personal foul for pushing Smith out near the Louisville bench. Smith kind of nonchalantly tossed the ball back McMahon’s direction and referee Brian Dorsey gave Smith a technical.
It’s one thing to fire the ball back at a guy, or confront an opponent. Smith did neither. It was notable on Monday, Dorsey gave Notre Dame coach Mike Brey a technical for arguing a call in the first half of the Duke game. Dorsey seems to have a low threshold for what qualifies as a technical.
That aside, State and Smith started poorly but only trailed 34-24 with 5 minutes to go in the half. Smith needs to figure out how to shake off the early problems and play through them. The more he plays, the more he’ll learn how to be consistent.
That’s one of the things the scouts were looking for on Sunday. After such a great game at Duke, how do you follow that up? Smith will eventually get better at that aspect.
On the positive side, seven of Smith’s 12 shots were at the rim and neither of his 3-point attempts were step-back shots. It was the first time in ACC play Smith didn’t attempt a step-back shot.
In ACC play, Smith has made 58.9 percent of his shots (23 of 39) when he goes to the basket but only 24 percent (6 of 25) of his step-back attempts.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
Syracuse at NC State
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh