Tony Haynes: UVa, NC State Round Two
By Tony Haynes
Raleigh, N.C. – Coach Dave Leitao wants more points and more possessions than Virginia was able to muster in its first game against NC State. The Wolfpack’s Sidney Lowe would like keep almost everything the same except for the final score. Even though the Pack lost to Leitao and Virginia six weeks ago 67-62, Lowe was happy with the pace of a game that featured mostly halfcourt possessions and very few transition opportunities for either team.
In the end, Virginia prevailed, not because its dynamic guard duo of Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds ran the Pack ragged, but rather because the Cavaliers scored 18 second chance points off of 15 offensive rebounds.
“I felt we really took away those fast break points,” Lowe said. “We limited their opportunities there, which we have to do again. We executed our offense and we didn’t take many bad shots, which can lead to fast breaks. Bad shots are like turnovers. The biggest thing is we controlled the tempo and didn’t allow them to get up and down the floor.”
The close nit relationship between offense and defense in the game of basketball is undeniable. Simply put, play good offense and you have a better chance to play good defense. And in game one against Virginia, NC State’s ability to get good shots and limit it turnovers (10) are the components that allowed the Wolfpack to get back and set up its defense before Virginia could strike quickly.
The opposite was true, of course, in the Pack’s 79-56 loss to Duke on Saturday. Wilting in the face of the Blue Devils’ tenacious man-to-man pressure, NC State yielded numerous easy baskets after its 20 turnovers, not to mention the forced, contested shots that also led to transition opportunities for Duke.
On Wednesday, Leitao would love to take a page out of the Duke playbook and pressure the Pack into a faster tempo. The faster the pace, the more lethal Singletary and Reynolds become.
“They played it close to the vest and very conservatively,” Leitao said, describing NC State’s strategy in December’s contest. “Sidney did a great job in his preparation that way. As we look at the film, we need to make some adjustments. We need to push the ball a little more, which is difficult against them because they get back so well. Our offense has to be more high-octane.”
Reynolds, a 6-3 senior, was running on premium on Sunday when he piled up 40 points in Virginia’s 88-76 triumph over Wake Forest. Hitting 12-of-18 shots from the floor and 6-8 from 3-point range, Reynolds posted the highest scoring effort by an ACC player this season.
Remarkably, however, it’s Reynolds’ backcourt running mate who actually leads the league in scoring. Singletary, a powerfully built junior point guard from Philadelphia, is averaging 19 points per contest. And when he’s not torturing other teams with his 3-point shooting or slashing drives to the basket, Singletary can kill softly at the free throw line. Not only does he get to the line a lot, he’s virtually automatic when he gets there, shooting 92.3 percent, a figure that ranks No. 1 in the ACC.
Singeltary has shot 130 free throws this season, an average of nearly eight per game.
“Not to dismiss the importance of the big man but I’ve always said that when you have good guards, you always have an opportunity to win games,” Lowe said. “They have very good guards that are experienced. It’s going to be a very difficult task for us. We played them pretty well up there and hopefully we can duplicate that.”
When Lowe watches Reynolds and Singletary work together on the floor, it reminds him of another great guard tandem in the ACC, one that he was a part of when he and Dereck Whittenburg helped the Wolfpack win the 1983 NCAA title.
“They know exactly where each other is going to be on the court,” Lowe said. “They know each other in terms of if one guy is not being himself, the other one knows him so well that he knows what to say to him to get him going. That means a lot when you have guys that have played together and understand each other like that, as Dereck and I did.”
NC State point guard Engin Atsur has missed 12 of the Wolfpack’s last 13 games with a pulled hamstring, a stretch that began, ironically enough, on December 3 when the Pack ventured up to Charlottesville for that first match-up with Virginia. Since then, Lowe has essentially been going with a starting line-up that consists of four forwards and a shooting guard.
Atsur was a part time participate in practice in the days leading up to the Duke game, but was not able to go on Saturday.
“It’s still up in the air,” Lowe said. “We don’t know yet. He worked out [Sunday] for about two and a half hours. He went through some stuff including his therapy. We’ll see how he feels and go from there. It’s hard to make a prediction as to whether he’ll be ready to go or not because there are times when we thought he was ready to go and he couldn’t go. Right now it’s day-to-day.”
With 17 points and seven rebounds, Brandon Costner was NC State’s scoring leader in the first game against Virginia. The 6-8 redshirt freshman paces the Pack in both scoring (16.8) and rebounding (7.9) Costner also has five double-doubles this season.
Forced into a slower-paced halfcourt game, Reynolds (14 points) and Singetary (11 points) were not as stout as usual on December 3. Lowe hopes for more of the same on Wednesday.
Hot Horner: Although he sometimes flies under the radar because of his quiet efficiency, Wolfpack freshman Dennis Horner has become a lethal 3-point shooter. For the season, the 6-7 forward is hitting 47.2 percent (17-of-36) of his attempts from the arc. Over his last three games, Horner is 6-of-7 from long range.McCauley Dishes it Out: For one of the few times this season, NC State center Ben McCauley had more turnovers (5) than assists (3) in Saturday’s loss to Duke. Nonetheless, the 6-9 sophomore still ranks fourth in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.78).