Opponent: NC State
Date: February 11
Time: 8:00 ET
Location: Raleigh (PNC Arena)
TV: ACC Network
The last time these two teams met, just over a month ago at JPJ, the Hoos came away with a 61-51 victory. It wasn't quite so easy, as the Wolfpack led 11-3 and 14-6 before the Hoos got on track. The Hoos took a 29-20 lead into the final media timeout of the first half, but then led just 32-31 at intermission.
The second half wasn't a ton better for the Hoos, and the Pack actually had a 1 point lead at the under-12 timeout. The Hoos would go on a 17-6 run, opening up the 10 point lead which would be the final result. It took 6 NC State points in the final minute of the game to avoid the Pack Line Pledge.
Not much has changed for the Wolfpack since that game. Back then, they ranked 32nd in the nation in offensive efficiency. Now, they sit at 30th. Back then, they were 117th in defensive efficiency. Now, they sit at 141st.
Yes, they can score. They don't shoot a ton of 3s, although they shoot them well. This is especially true for Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner, who are shooting 42% and 39% from downtown, respectively. Those two combined to shoot 7-13 from 3 in the last matchup, scoring 23 points. Only 1 of those makes came in the 2nd half, though. Lacey is the biggest threat on the team, and he's sixth in the ACC in scoring, at nearly 17 points per game. Not surprisingly, the Hoos have done a good job this year of stopping the opposition's top threat.
Defensively, the Wolfpack are kind of a mess. They have only 1 real big man, BeeJay Anya, and he can't stay out foul trouble. He's also not much of an offensive threat (except on the glass), so keeping him in the game puts more pressure on their perimeter players. They would simply rather go small, and try to outscore people. That hasn't worked very well over the past few weeks, as the Pack have lost 5 of their last 7, including a loss to Wake Forest last Tuesday, in which they allowed 1.16 points per possession to a team that is barely over 1 on the season.
That was their last game, so they will have had 8 days off in between contests. That delay would likely mean that they are fresh. With fresh legs, they'll try to get the Hoos into an up and down game. But, they may also be rusty. They got off to a fast start in the previous matchup, scoring 16 points in the first 6 minutes. They then scored 28 points in the next 30 minutes before scoring 9 garbage time points after the contest was decided.
That hot start kept them in the game for the first half. Without that, the game may have been over much earlier. A rusty start from NC State would be nice for the Hoos, who have gotten off to quick starts a few times themselves over the past few games. With a distinct advantage on the interior, the Hoos want to play their game, dominate the glass, score inside, and walk away with a nice easy win. The last time around, the Hoos' interior trio combined for 27 points and 20 rebounds on 10/18 shooting. That kind of performance will be needed again, especially without Justin Anderson.
This will be the Hoos first full game without Simba, although they played the 2nd half on Saturday without him. Yes, they struggled a bit in that second half, but Louisville is a much better team than NC State, especially on the defensive end. The Hoos are likely to find some open looks on the perimeter, even without Justin. In the last matchup, Justin was 4-9 from downtown. Who will take those shots this week? Evan Nolte? Marial Shayok? Brogdon? Maybe Devon Hall?
The Hoos shouldn't have too much trouble scoring against NC State. They were actually only at 1.02 in the last matchup, but a lot of that was due to far too many outside shots. The Hoos are too good inside, especially in this matchup, to be shooting 36% of their shots from outside. Get the ball inside, get to the line, and get out with an easy win.