Friday, February 27, 2009

Pack PGs: Room for more improvement

On Tuesday, N.C. State assistant coach Pete Strickland was listing the reasons for the Wolfpack’s improved play over the last three weeks.

As explained in a story in Thursday’s Raleigh News & Observer, the Wolfpack’s big lineup, eight-player rotation and faster pace have played major roles. Improvement by N.C. State’s point guards makes all those things possible.

“It’s funny how much gets back to our point guards,” Strickland said.

Better ball handling by the point guards has made it possible for N.C. State to play three post players instead of having an extra ball handler in the game. Javi Gonzalez and Farnold Degand have beaten out freshman Julius Mays to earn spots in the rotation as the Wolfpack is starting to establish continuity on offense.

Gonzalez and Degand are largely responsible for N.C. State’s increase in fast break production because they’re pushing the ball up the floor better.

Their contributions in an 85-78 loss at No. 13-ranked Wake Forest were huge. They helped the Wolfpack stay to the very end on the road against a ranked team desperate for a win to stop a slide.

Gonzalez scored eight points with six assists. Degand came off the bench for 12 points and five assists, attacking the Deacons on the fast break.

Early in the season, such production (20 points, 11 assists, five turnovers) from the point guard position seemed an almost impossible goal for N.C. State. But there’s still room for more improvement.

Late in the first half N.C. State had cut a 15-point deficit to six when Gonzalez made two consecutive careless turnovers. The Wolfpack trailed by eight at halftime and lost some of its momentum.

In the final minutes, Degand missed two free throws and fired a 3-point attempt that didn’t even come close to hitting the rim. Although the shot was open, that was a time to recognize that he’s a better penetrator than 3-point shooter and pass up that shot.

They’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go. That’s why it’s possible to see the Wolfpack getting even better in the coming weeks, and why this team could use a bid to the NIT for more experience to build for the future. – Ken Tysiac