RALEIGH N.C. State believes it will have size advantage against Duke on Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Wolfpack also believes its post players have the ability to produce more than they have thus far this season.
“We know we can score,” freshman forward BeeJay Anya said. “We need to start showing that.”
The Wolfpack (11-6, 1-3 ACC), which hasn’t beaten Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski at Cameron since 1988, hopes its bigs can exploit Duke’s undersized middle.
The quartet of Anya, Jordan Vandenberg, Kyle Washington and Lennard Freeman had its best half of the season at Wake Forest on Wednesday. In the first 20 minutes, State’s post players were aggressive and active in the UCLA high-post offense that Mark Gottfried runs.
Vandenberg had eight points, Washington and Freeman had four each as the Pack built a 43-35 lead. Those three combined to make 7 of 9 shots. As a team, the Pack had 10 offensive rebounds and a 17-0 advantage in second-chance points.
“In previous games, we haven’t been as aggressive as we should be,” Anya said. “We were more aggressive at Wake and I think you’ll see more of that the rest of the year.”
The Wolfpack’s interior success came against Wake’s man defense in the first half, and that’s how the UCLA system is supposed to work, with the offense flowing through the bigs, who have to be aggressive.
Getting his young post players to be assertive has been a challenge for Gottfried, whose first two N.C. State teams were driven by the post production of C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell.
“Our young guys, they’re good,” Gottfried said. “For our team to develop into the best we can become, our big guys need to develop.”
Before the season, Gottfried knew his quarter of inexperienced post options -- even Vandenberg, a fifth-year senior, played sparingly before this season -- wouldn’t match the production of Leslie and Howell, the two leading scorers from the 2012-13 team. Leslie (15.1 points per game) and Howell (12.7) accounted for 35.9 percent of the Pack’s scoring last season (27.8 of its 77.4 points per game).
Through 17 games, the quartet of Vandenberg-Anya-Washington-Freeman have combined for 16.8 points per game or 23.2 percent of the team’s 72.5 points per game. That’s not enough, not in a system predicated on the production of its forwards.
“Our bigs need to touch the ball more,” Gottfried said. “It’s something that we’ve tried to make a point of emphasis, I thought the first half (at Wake Forest) we did a great job of that.”
Great job in the first half, but in the second half, Wake switched to a zone defense and State’s interior production fizzled. The Pack relied on outside shots, instead of going back inside.
Krzyzewski probably won’t go zone, at least not for long stretches, but Vandenberg does expect Duke to go back to the deep rotation it used in Monday’s win over Virginia.
Even with more minutes for 7-foot forward Marshall Plumlee, Vandenberg expects N.C. State to be able to score in the paint against the Blue Devils.
“We have a size advantage and we need to take advantage of that,” Vandenberg said.
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