On a team with tremendous athleticism, it’s actually turned out to be some of the fundamentals that have contributed to nearly all eight losses for N.C. State (20-8, 9-6 ACC) this season.
The Wolfpack has a minus-22 turnover differential in its eight losses, which included a three-game losing streak sans turnover-prone point guard Lorenzo Brown. Considering freshman replacement Tyler Lewis committed just one turnover in the 90 combined minutes he played during those games without Brown (3.4 TPG), this stat could easily be much worse.
Some of the most costly losses where turnovers played a key factor were games at then-No. 3 Michigan and rival North Carolina (minus-7 turnover differential) and also on the road versus Virginia (minus-6 turnover differential). The enigmatic play of junior C.J. Leslie has been a prominent factor in this department all season long, as the ultra-athletic but often lackadaisical forward from Holly Springs has 3.2 TPG this season.
Another seemingly missing fundamental which has frustrated State fans throughout the year has been the team’s free throw shooting, which sinks to 61% (79-of-128) in losses. For a group unable to crack the top 200 teams in the nation when it comes to its overall free throw shooting percentage (68.2%), losing four games by three points or less is particular maddening when the team fails to take advantage of the charity stripe. Due to the lineup’s size advantage over almost any team it will play, State regularly goes to the line 15-20 times per contest.
To make a run in March and rekindle some of the magic from last season’s Sweet Sixteen journey, taking care of the fundamentals will end up being monumental and could very well decide the fate of a team that was once predicted to win the ACC.
N.C. State plays in Atlanta versus Georgia Tech (15-12, 5-10 ACC) tonight at 6 p.m. before finishing the regular season versus Wake Forest (12-16, 5-11 ACC) and Florida State (15-13, 7-8 ACC).