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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pack hits warp speed in exhibition win over Pfeiffer

Posted by on Wed, Nov 10, 2010 at 2:18 AM

Ryan Harrow
  • Photo by George A. Hoffman Jr.
  • Ryan Harrow
I was dying to see Ryan Harrow, the freshman point guard with the sweet smile and the squeaky voice. Here's my view of the upcoming season: If Harrow's as good as advertised, the Pack should be in the top three or four in the ACC, maybe even the top two with Duke. Watching him warm up, he looked a little tentative. Uh, oh. Then he didn't start. Javi Gonzalez was the starter ahead of him. What was that about?

Four minutes into the game, Harrow and fellow freshman phenom C.J. Leslie checked in, replacing Javi and Richard Howell. Tracy Smith, Scott Wood and the third heralded freshman, Lorenzo Brown, were the other starters. The score was 11-5. Within a minute, it was 19-5. Another minute, 24-5. By this time, Javi was back as the two guard with C. J. Williams on the wing, replacing Wood, and DeShawn Painter in the middle replacing Smith. It really didn't matter. With Harrow at the point, the Pack was playing at lightning speed whoever was out there with him: Harrow to Leslie for a layup ... Wood to Harrow for a layup ... Leslie an open 2 ... Javi a 3 ... Painter a slam on a feed from Harrow ... Harrow end to end for a jumper in the lane. It was dazzling basketball.

Final score, State over Pfeiffer 111-73. Harrow's line: 20 minutes, 17 points on 7-11 shooting, 3-4 from the line, 8 assists, 1 turnover, 1 steal. He wasn't perfect. He was caught out of position at least twice on defense, leading to easy baskets. He clanked his only attempt at a 3. But he also made plays not seen in a State game — at least by anyone on the home team — since the equally clever, if a bit slower, Chris Corchiani. A darting scoop shot in the lane. An underhand lob off a high hesitation dribble (I think I have that right) that seemed to stop time until it came down in the hands of 7-foot backup center Jordan Vandenberg, who jammed it. A couple of ultra-quick crossovers leading to effortless flip shots that went in.

Truth to tell, after State went up 19 in the first six minutes, the Pack let up on defense, allowing Pfeiffer to still be 18 down at the half (52-34) and 21 down halfway through the second half (78-57). Only when State's superior depth had worn the Falcons down did Pfeiffer finally slip back to lose by 38.

Pfeiffer was scrappy, their guards were constantly getting in the lane and making plays, and they shot the ball decently. But State's going to need to get a lot better defensively to be a top ACC team. Harrow said they didn't always rotate properly and give weakside help. I'd say that they also didn't do a very good job of trapping and, if they intended to overplay and pressure, they didn't do so well at that either. And they let Pfeiffer get 20 offensive rebounds — way too many for a team with a just a 6'6 center (Chris Woods, who was outstanding) and a wispy 6'8 forward to go against State's five burly bigs.

Some of State's problems seemed to stem from its constantly shifting lineup. Eight State players were in for 16 minutes or more; Vandenberg (11 minutes) and Painter (nine) added 20 more minutes between them. With Javi at the point, State played a half-court game and looked to Smith and Howell for points inside. With Harrow out front, State ran like the wind, usually with Leslie subbing for Howell and racing the floor like a 6'8 thoroughbred alongside of Brown, Wood and/or Williams (pick two). The different styles seemed to confuse guys at times, especially the big guys.

On the other hand, Harrow looks like he'll be the starting point guard from now on, with Brown, Williams, Wood and Javi sharing the wing positions. Brown and Wood are the best of the group all-around; Williams and Javi play solid defense and can score too, though not as consistently.

Inside, Smith is still the one State player with all-ACC finishing skills around the basket. Howell is a big-time rebounder. Vandenberg battles. And then there's Leslie, a strong rebounder and passer and a 3-point shooter who can also drive and create. He'll play more and more in the middle on defense and wherever he wants to be on offense as the season progresses. When this lineup starts to click, look out Duke.

By the way, Harrow did say he was nervous before the game — in fact, he was nervous all day, a first in his basketball-playing experience. So I wasn't wrong about that after all, though I decided that I must be wrong when he took over the game within 10 seconds of hitting the floor. Anyway, the fact that he didn't start was partly so Coach Sidney Lowe could let him ease into his first collegiate game, and partly because Javi is a returning senior-starter who'd earned the respect.

Wrapping up, it was just an exhibition and Pfeiffer wasn't much of a test, so it remains to be seen whether this talented group will play well in tough games and get stronger as the season progresses. But there's no doubt, they are talented. I look at this way. We had a pretty good team at the end of last season, and though we lost Dennis Horner up front, Leslie and Howell should more than compensate for his absence ... in the backcourt, Harrow is a big improvement at the point, with Javi still available as his backup and for duty at the two-guard, and Brown and Williams at the two are a big improvement over Farnold Degand ... at the three spot, there's almost too much talent except that Wood and Leslie should be able to play together a lot of the time.

***

Click here for the final box score. Harrow shared scoring honors with Smith, Leslie and Brown, each of whom notched 17 points also.. Wood added 14 with 4-9 shooting from 3-point range. Williams, in just 16 minutes, scored 13 points. Howell was the leading rebounder with 10.

Click here for NCSU's game writeup.

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