Wolfpack win tune up game

Wolfpack win tune up game

Published Dec. 17, 2010 6:27 a.m. ET

By Andrew Jones
December 17, 2010

Raleigh, NC --- Sidney Lowe knows that a perfect world doesn't exist in basketball, especially when leaning on the youngest of the young to lead a team through the treacherous waters of the ACC.

That is why so-called "tune-up" games, like Thursday's bout with visiting Youngstown State, are necessary. They are supposed to supply a team like N.C. State with confidence while it learns to play together.

The Wolfpack's 67-50 win over the Penguins at the RBC Center was anything from perfect or pretty. Quite frankly, it was rather unappealing on many levels. But it may have been necessary for the Pack and its gifted trio of talented freshmen to strengthen its guard with Arizona coming to town this weekend and ACC play just a few weeks away.

"I hope we did learn something," Lowe said. "I just talked to them about that. Our backs were against the wall in the first half. We needed to play better defense."

The bottom line is quite simple: N.C. State was terrible in the first half; the effort was poor; the execution unrecognizable for a team from such a prestigious conference; and its collective body language was that of a team that wanted to be anywhere but on the basketball court.

The Wolfpack trailed 20-3 and 31-13 before Youngstown held a 34-21 advantage at halftime, and it could have been worse, as Youngstown missed plenty of good looks in the first half.

"We just didn't come out ready to play," freshman point guard Ryan Harrow said, noting recently finishing exams may have played a role in the team's flat play. "And it didn't even start from the game it started in practice (Wednesday). We weren't mentally prepared in practice, and coach said that was the case. And then we came in here thinking that we're playing Youngstown and we just let up."

This is where the educational part of the evening took hold.

N.C. State (6-3) opened the second half with much more intensity on defense, extending it to where YSU simply couldn't run its offense. Youngstown made just 6 of 27 shots after halftime.

The Pack still struggled running its constant array of sets called from the bench in the second half. It mostly ignored its big men down low, something that must change, especially when Tracy Smith returns to the lineup. But Lowe called on Harrow to make something happen.

The 6-foot-1 freshman from Marietta, GA, who might be 160 pounds with a brick in each hand, took his man to the basket for some runners and plenty of free throws. Harrow scored 12 of his game-high 14 points over the game's final 10 minutes.

"At first, I was just looking to set the plays up, and then coach said, 'You have to start being aggressive,'" Harrow explained. "So, that's what I thought I should do was to start going to the hole whenever I saw an opportunity.

"They were fouling and were a pretty rough team right from the get go, so we had to use that to our advantage and just take it to the hole and get the foul. We work on free throws in practice; it's free."