Gameday Blog/Live Open Thread: State vs. Little Rock

Brett Friedlander

You wouldn't think that a late-November basketball game against Little Rock of the Sun Belt Conference would be an important one for an ACC team like NC State.

But this one is.

Not because the Trojans are any great shakes. They're 3-2 on the season. Not because their coach is a former NBA player, Darrell Walker. 

No, it's important because it's the final tuneup before Thursday's showdown with Memphis at Barclay's Center in Brooklyn. That's a game the Wolfpack really needs to win to bolster its resume and avoid the disappointment it felt on Selection Sunday a year ago.

That, however, is a problem far off in the future. Today, the focus is on continuing the trend of improvement the team has shown over the past few games and getting Markell Johnson going from 3-point range.

FIRST HALF

The usual suspects to start today: Johnson, Braxton Beverly, CJ Bryce, Jericole Hellems and Manny Bates. 

My guess is that Keatts is keeping Bates in the starting lineup to keep his confidence up. I'd espect DJ Funderburk to come into the game before the first TV timeout, because as good as Bates is -- especially blocking shots -- the Wolfpack is a significantly better team on the offensive end with the more polished Funderburk on the floor ... 

Oh God ... TV Teddy is in the house ...

There's a good sign. Johnson hits his first 3-point attempt from the left wing ... And now Hellems follows with one from the top of the circle. ... Wolfpack off to a strong start. ...

First TV timeout: State 12, Little Rock 4...

I was close. Funderburk comes in AT the first TV timeout ...

CJ Bryce is really channeling his inner Torin Dorn right now. He's attacking the basket, rebounding like a player much taller than his 6-foot-5 and defending with a lot of energy. He's currently 4 for 4 today with three rebounds.

Under 12 TV timeout ... State 21, Little Rock 9

First half Andree ... Pat sinks one from deep on the left wing to make it 30-13 Wolfpack ...

State is shooting 60 percent from the floor thus far (12 of 19) and is 3 of 5 from 3-point range. But it's only 3 for 6 from the free throw line and has already given up seven offensive rebounds to the Trojans ...

Markell still having issues from outside. He just fired up a 3-point airball and is 1 for 3 from distance tonight. He is, however, 4 of 6 overall for nine points ...

And now Bryce hits from downtown, an area of his game he really hasn't shown yet. The kid is off to an All-ACC start and has 11 of State's 37 points so far today while going 5 for his first 5. He's been the complete package today ...

C.J. Bryce v FIJ gopack photo
CJ Bryce has been the total package tonightGoPack.com photo

And there's a dunk by Hellems, who punctuates  by hanging on the rim with one hand and letting out a primal scream. Lucky he didn't get a T there ...

Under 4 TV timeout, State in complete control up 39-15 ...

DJ Funderburk tried to trick TV Teddy into giving him the ball for an inbounds play after Teddy had ruled it was Little Rock's ball. Teddy pretended to give Funderburk the ball, then pulled it back. Smiling, he said to the Wolfpack player "Who says I don't have a good time?"

In further officiating news, fans at PNC aren't happy about a rash of fouls called on State in the past few possessions. Maybe they should save their indignation for a closer game. Wolfpack is currently up 39-29.

One good comment, however, came from a fan behind me who yelled "Do you guys get paid by the foul?"

Little Rock gets the final basket of the half and after 20 minutes, it's State 39, Trojans 21

UALR box first

SECOND HALF

Maybe Second Half Manny is becoming a thing like First Half Andree … Bates already has a dunk and a blocked shot on the first two possessions of the period ...

Johnson with a left corner 3 ... slowly but surely, Markell is starting to look like Markell again. He's got 11 points (5 for 9, 2 for 5) with three assists. But he just picked up his fourth foul with 16:43 left. It will be interesting to see how the Wolfpack handles this next 10 or so minutes, because it's not going to be the last time this season something like this happens. Good news is that its leading 47-26, so experimentation is possible ...

Looks like Mr. Do-It-All CJ Bryce is going to get some run as the lead ballhandler here ...

Under 16 TV timeout ... State 48, Little Rock 26

How comfortable is #NCState's lead? Comfortable enough that even Mr. Wuf can take a break and relax a little ...

Mr. Wuf relaxing

Keatts calls timeout after that Beverly 3. He's not happy with the way his team has been playing since Johnson went out. Little Rock has only outcored State 9-5 since Johnson's third foul three minutes ago, but the Wolfpack is clearly a different, less fluid team since then ...

State immediately gets a steal off the press out of the timeout ... But then gives up a 3

Under 12 TV timeout: State 55, Little Rock 37

The Wolfpack is getting outrebounded 28-27 and has given up 10 offensive boards. Only two of those, however, have come in the second half. Little Rock is the biggest team State has faced this season, and it's not handling it well. Wolfpack is going to have to compete better on the glass when it starts playing better teams like Memphis on Thursday ...

Whoa, DJ Funderburk puts the ball on the floor, goes under the rim and dunks on the other side. REALLY athletic play that shows how much his game has grown since last year ...

Johnson back in at the 8:44 mark. He was on the bench for almost exactly eight minutes. State was outscored 15-12 during that time. Wolfpack still leads 61-45 at the under-8 TV timeout ...

The biggest cheer of the night just happened with Little Rock's Ruot Monyyong went to the line with six minutes left. The Chick-fil-A Fowl Shot promotion is in effect and the fans got excited when the 7-footer missed his first. But alas, no free chicken this time. Monyyong made the second to disappoint the crowd. The promotion awards a free sandwich to everyone in attendance if the other team misses two straight foul shots in the final eight minutes of the game. ...

Final TV timeout ... State 67, Little Rock 50

F2F0836F-A0F2-40CE-8A92-1C7DB3838A8B
Tempers got a little short at the end of the game

Not sure what started it, but Little Rock's Markquis Nowell and State's Devon Daniels just had some heated words as Daniels was dribbling out the clock. Refs got between them and called an end to the game with 1.3 seconds left on the clock ...

Now there's trouble in the handshake line …. But wait. They've put the 1.3 seconds back on the clock. Not sure why. State inbounds it and NOW the game is over. Keatts talks it over with LR coach Darrell Walker and tells team to forget the handshake line. Strange ending.

Final: State 74, Little Rock 58

UALR final box
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