It was a memorable week for Duke, who despite not playing, has assumed the No. 1 ranking in this week’s AP Polls as former No. 1 Indiana was upset by Butler. Despite wins for both NC State and North Carolina, neither team moved up the rankings this week, with North Carolina dropping a few spots to No. 23.
NC State (7-2)
December 8: Cleveland State 63, NC State 80
No. 25 NC State dominated in a big win over visiting Cleveland State. The Wolfpack shot 55% from the field and their opponent trailed by double-digits for most of the game. NC State was led by senior Richard Howell, who scored 17 points to go with his 10 rebounds, and junior C.J Leslie, who continued his recent hot streak by leading all scorers with 19 points. Another impressive performance came from freshman T.J Warren, who has been excellent all year, as he added 16 points in 23 efficient minutes. All in all, it was another highly polished performance from the Wolfpack, and in the midst of a six game homestand, their season seems to be on the upswing.
December 15: Norfolk State 62, NC State 84
Back to back double-digit wins for No. 25 NC State, as the team coached by Mark Gottfried, continued to impress both offensively and defensively. T.J Warren had yet another 20-point game as he topped all scorers with 21 points. He was complemented perfectly by the usual suspects, big men Richard Howell and C.J Leslie, who scored 12 and 11 points respectively. Howell also grabbed a career-high of 19 rebounds. The Wolfpack continued its hot shooting, hitting over 57 percent of their shots, and the Howell-led rebounding attack bested the Spartans’ figure by 12 boards.
Analysis: Two more wins for NC State, though the Wolfpack didn’t move up in the AP Polls this week. Freshman T.J Warren has been excellent so far, leading a veteran NC State team with 14.6 points per game. Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie have formed one of the most feared frontcourts in the NCAA, combining for 27 points and 17.3 rebounds per game. The Wolfpack have shaken off their early season struggles and are now once again resembling the team that earned a preseason No. 6 ranking from the AP Poll. January 12 should be circled on all calendars, the date when Duke and NC State square off for the first time this season.
Upcoming: December 18 vs. Stanford; December 22 vs. St Bonaventure
December 8: East Tennessee State 55, North Carolina 78
No. 23 North Carolina absolutely commanded its game against East Tennessee State, and the only reason the game even looked close was because the Tar Heels lowered their intensity in the second half. North Carolina limited the Buccaneers to just 12 first half points, out scoring them 42-12. Leslie McDonald led the way with 14 points and freshman Brice Johnson and junior Reggie Bullock chipped in with 12 and 10 points respectively. Guards Marcus Paige and Dexter Strickland had seven assists apiece. The Tar Heels forced 22 turnovers and had a team-total of 30 assists in its blowout win.
December 15: East Carolina 87, North Carolina 93
North Carolina outlasted East Carolina in a close game 93-87 to make it three wins in a row. Sophomore James Michael McAdoo bounced back from a weak performance against East Tennessee State with 19 points. Right behind him was sophomore P.J. Hairston, who had 18 of his own. Dexter Strickland recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists to go along with his three steals. The Tar Heels shot 51% on the game and their offensive performance was solid, but coach Roy Williams must be concerned with how closely the Pirates were able to play his Tar Heels.
Analysis: North Carolina fell in the rankings after nearly losing to East Carolina last week. The Tar Heels’ turnover rate has been high, and this coupled with some defensive naivety at times has contributed to points being scored against them. Yet they possess an 8-2 record as they’ve been able to close out games and play in the clutch; something they won’t be able to depend upon all season long, so coach Williams will have some work on his hands before key games start coming up. James Michael McAdoo leads the team in scoring with 15.4 a game, but needs to find more consistency if he is going to be the team’s leader on offense.
Upcoming: December 19 at Texas; December 22 vs. McNeese State