Three Points from N.C. State's 73-65 win over Louisiana Tech on Tuesday night:
1) Kyle and Cat, Cat and Kyle
For N.C. State to be good this season, and beat good teams like Louisiana Tech, both sophomore forward Kyle Washington and sophomore guard Cat Barber need to be good.
Both fit that description, particularly in the second half, in Tuesday's comeback win. Washington finished with 11 points (all in the second half) and 10 rebounds and jump-started the 18-point comeback, which matched the biggest in four seasons under coach Mark Gottfried (a 77-74 win over Texas on Nov. 21, 2011).
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
After getting pushed around by West Virginia this past Saturday, Barber was decisive with the ball and chipped in 17 points and six rebounds in 36 minutes.
"All around I thought it was a terrific night for Cat," Gottfried said.
When Barber uses his speed and gets to the rim, especially against smaller teams like Louisiana Tech, he makes the whole offense better.
"He doesn't necessarily have to push to score," Lacey said of Barber. "If he pushes the ball, it kind of helps everybody out."
It was Barber's full-court blast, off his own rebound to boot, that shrunk Louisiana Tech's lead from 50-32 to 52-50 at 9:47.
Then it was Barber's transition find of Abdul-Malik Abu, who chipped in with 10 points and five rebounds, which really put N.C. State in control, 64-60 at 3:55.
"He's so quick, he can get to the rim," Gottfried said. "He's getting better at that. He still has to try to attack, that's when he's really good."
Barber struggled in losses to Purdue, Wofford and West Virginia but has been more consistent this season than Washington.
Gottfried has been pleading with his bigs to score more and Washington is the best option. But since scoring 17 points at Purdue on Dec. 2, Washington went through a five-game stretch when he didn't post more than six points in a game.
More disappointing to Gottfried, Washington had only two rebounds in 30 minutes against West Virginia. Washington was clearly motivated to do more against Louisiana Tech.
After not scoring, in only 6 minutes in the first half, he had five field goals in the second half for his second double-digit scoring effort of the season. He had seven points during the 18-2 run to get N.C. State back into the game.
"That's Kyle," Lacey said. "That's what Kyle does."
N.C. State needs more of it, and Barber, too, to make solid NCAA push.
2) Free-throw magic
N.C. State's 15-of-18 performance in the second half quickly took off on Twitter after the game.
Maybe it was a "Festivus Miracle" or an early birthday present for Gottfried. Whatever it was, it was certainly welcome.
The best news for N.C. State was its primary ball-handlers, Lacey and Barber, finally had a good game from the free-throw line.
Lacey, who entered the game making just 70.6 percent, went 7 of 9 from the line. Barber, who came in shooting 68.8 percent, made 3 out of 4.
Not everyone on the team has to be a great foul shooter but your best players, especially your guards who have the ball a lot in late-game situations, have to make at least 75 percent of their attempts.
After going 21 of 36 as a team against West Virginia on Saturday, Gottfried said he had each player take 50 free throws in practice on Monday.
"We shoot so many foul shots (in practice), sometimes I think we shoot too many," Gottfried said.
But there was a reason his team turned a strong performance, notably on the second half, Gottfried said.
"You've got to have some courage and say, 'I'm making them,' " Gottfried said.
3) Same rules, different interpretation
They didn't change the rules after N.C. State's loss to West Virginia, but there were different referees on hand for Tuesday's game with Louisiana Tech.
Veteran SEC official Doug Shows, who has increased his ACC workload this season (he has worked two straight games at PNC Arena) didn't allow any of the hand-checking that West Virginia used to its advantage on Saturday.
Shows correctly whistled N.C. State's Ralston Turner for a hand-check early in the first half. It's real simple, you're not supposed to be able to push the dribbler. If you use two hands, it’s an automatic whistle.
The NCAA went through great lengths to clean up the game last season, especially in the early season portion schedule. It would be a shame to let the hand-to-hand combat that marred much of the 2000s and this decade, creep back into the game.
For N.C. State, with Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Virginia on the horizon, it would be especially helpful if all the officials got on the same page and called the games the right way.