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The Morning Dish – Tuesday, January 24, 2017

January 24, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

North Carolina State winning at Duke surprised just about all of the college basketball world. It probably shouldn’t have.

For the seemingly never-ending enigma that is N.C. State basketball, Monday night’s 84-82 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium was all too fitting. The Wolfpack have been making a living for years of flashing just when you got used to them sputtering, and faltering just when you were ready to believe in them. They’ve done both this year, but entered this game trending downward, which means if one had just checked Wolfpack Standard Time, they would’ve seen this one coming from a mile away.

N.C. State had lost four of five and five of seven entering Monday, slipping after the conclusion of a typically friendly major conference non-league schedule, but also just when the Wolfpack were healthy and whole for the first time all year.

When Omer Yurtseven was reinstated following an NCAA-mandated eligibility suspension and Maverick Rowan returned from a concussion, the Pack were quickly accorded with trendy up-and-comer status and expected to challenge for a top 25 spot. Instead, State looked horrendous in a 51-point loss to North Carolina, almost as bad in a road loss at Boston College and a home loss to Georgia Tech, which was followed two games later by a home loss to Wake Forest.

And so, it was only natural that, just when N.C. State appeared to have firmly established itself as a solid NIT contender this year at best, it won at Duke for the first time in 22 years, and only after an improbable resurrection late. The Wolfpack trailed by nine points with less than seven minutes left but went on a 20-5 run to take the lead, and then weathered four missed free throws in the final seconds. Dennis Smith was mostly superb with 32 points, though he also made just 8 of 15 from the free throw line. In the end, though, this is a huge win for State, and will only confirm many assumptions about the strength of the ACC this year.

If you read social media, you know head coach Mark Gottfried has been branded as the source of N.C. State’s much-discussed inconsistency, but really it’s been going on for the better part of 20 years. Going back to the Herb Sendek years, the Wolfpack seem to have patented the 22-14 season, good enough to tease (including winning at least one game in eight of their nine NCAA tourney trips in that time and even making three Sweet 16 appearances in that span) yet bad enough to remind us not to expect greatness regularly. At 13-7 overall now, it looks like the Pack is right on pace.

Side Dishes:

  • Oklahoma State is trying to resurrect its season, having posted its second straight strong performance in an 89-76 win over TCU. Jawun Evans scored 27 and added eight assists, and the Cowboys blew up for 57 seconds half points.
  • Also in the Big 12, Texas nipped Oklahoma 84-83 as Andrew Jones hit a three-pointer with two seconds left for the winning points. Both of these teams are below par this year, but this is typically an excellent rivalry game anyway and showed as much here.
  • Niagara and Canisius renewed their ancient series, and the homestanding Purple Eagles scored a 91-84 win. Also in the MAAC, Iona is starting to heat up, having won three straight after an 84-74 win over Quinnipiac.
  • Texas-Arlington delivered a message in the Sun Belt, routing Louisiana-Lafayette 108-71. The Mavericks dominated on the glass against a good rebounding team, with a 52-36 margin emblematic of complete domination. Also making statements in the Sun Belt, though, is Georgia Southern, which is now 7-0 in league after a 91-80 win over Coastal Carolina. Tookie Brown and Ike Smith were terrific, combining for 44 points.
  • A bizarre game in the SWAC saw Mississippi Valley State-3-17 on the season-hand Texas Southern its first conference loss, winning 103-89 in overtime in a game that featured 57 fouls and took almost two hours 50 minutes to complete. The Tigers rallied from a big deficit late in regulation, but Ta’Jay Henry had 30 points and 20 rebounds to lead the Delta Devils.

Tonight’s Menu:

  • The biggie once again comes from the Big 12 and once again features West Virginia at home, with the Mountaineers welcoming No. 2 Kansas (7 p.m. Eastern, ESPN).
  • Michigan State’s NCAA Tournament chances are nowhere near dead in part because they have two games left against Purdue, including the Boilermakers at home tonight (7 p.m., ESPN2)
  • Pittsburgh faces another near must-win game when it hosts Louisville (7 p.m., ESPNU).
  • A pair of top 15 ACC teams meet when Virginia is at Notre Dame.
  • Wake Forest has made some hay recently, and the Demon Deacons can make more headway with a win at Syracuse.
  • Marquette took advantage of a prime opportunity to get a win at Creighton in its first full game without Maurice Watson, and now the Golden Eagles have another: No. 1 Villanova, at home. (8 p.m., FS1).
  • Another intriguing game in the Big 12 is old Big 8 rivals Kansas State and Iowa State meeting in Ames (9 p.m., ESPNU).
  • San Diego State and New Mexico are two of the six-SIX-teams separated by one loss at the top of the Mountain West standings. The Aztecs are at Air Force while the Lobos host Utah State, looking for their fourth straight win (11 p.m., ESPNU).

Enjoy your Tuesday.

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