Georgia Tech rallies to defeat NC State in overtime at PNC Arena, 82-81. Despite the loss, there is some optimism to be had for the Wolfpack.
After never trailing in regulation, NC State dropped its season opener to Georgia Tech, 82-81. The Wolfpack led by as many as 15 points but let the Yellow Jackets close the gap before allowing Tech to take the lead in overtime.
Wolfpack Nation will likely see the addition to the loss column and proclaim the sky is falling, but there are several factors that should provide a silver lining moving forward. The first positive should be the result itself despite glaring omissions from the team.
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Senior point guard Markell Johnson, arguably the team’s most dynamic player, missed the game with an ankle injury. Redshirt junior forward D.J. Funderburk was also absent from the Wolfpack’s clash with the Yellow Jackets as he’s serving a suspension for violating team policies. Even without Johnson’s scoring and leadership as well as Funderburk’s presence down low, the Pack maintained the close score while Tech needed an extra five minutes to bury State. With those components back in the lineup, the Wolfpack will undoubtedly be a much more successful team.
One of the actual contributors to the Pack’s cause performed well in the loss. Redshirt senior guard C.J. Bryce recorded a double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds. As one of the players with the most experience in head coach Kevin Keatts’ system, he’s always been apt to flourish in a Wolfpack uniform since transferring from UNC-Wilmington. Playing in all but 51 seconds, Bryce’s play was crucial in Johnson’s absence.
Another bright spot came from redshirt freshman forward Manny Bates. After missing his first year on campus due to an injury, Bates received a raucous ovation from the PNC Arena crowd in his first start in Raleigh. The Fayetteville, N.C. native responded to the praise by rejecting five Georgia Tech shots in his debut. Bates’ play in this game, as well as the exhibition versus Mount Olive, should give Wolfpack fans optimism for the future as he will be able to minimize any opposing offense, but his own offense, unfortunately, leaves much to be desired. Bates scored one basket on eight shots from the floor, so his accuracy will need to be improved to secure his position as a starting big man even when Funderburk returns.
Finally, the Wolfpack has itself a solid sharpshooter from behind the arc. Graduate student forward Pat Andree started the game hot for the Wolfpack with 12 points on 3-for-3 shooting from behind the arc and a 3-for-3 mark at the free-throw line. Even with going 0-for-3 from the floor the rest of the way, Andree proved to be a threatening presence that forced the Jackets to press harder against him. Given time to fully acclimate to Keatts’ offense, the Lehigh transfer should jell well with Johnson and junior guard and fellow sharpshooter Braxton Beverly.
The sky is not falling. Though the loss is unwelcome, it’s far from the end of the world. With a relatively easy non-conference schedule to look forward to, the Wolfpack will have plenty of opportunities to regroup and power past the loss and form into a potent force that can make waves in an aggressive Atlantic Coast Conference.