I thought we'd lead forever but now I'm not so sure.
The Flying Dutchmen’s bid for a perfect season ended Monday night, when North Carolina State led wire-to-wire in a 76-64 win. It was the 12th straight loss for the Dutchmen against a BCS- or BCS-level foe*** dating back to the 2006-07 season, but only the fourth by 12 points or less.
(I felt like we had to count the 2013-14 game against SMU as a game against a BCS-level foe, since SMU played in the same league as defending national champion Louisville, which we counted as a BCS-level foe when it waxed the Dutchmen 97-69 last November, and as eventual national champion UConn. However, 2012-13 SMU, which played in the flustercuck that is/was Conference USA, doesn’t count as a BCS-level foe. Carry on.)
Anyway, despite the relatively lopsided final margin it was a relatively encouraging outing by the Dutchmen, and not just because they backdoor covered on Ameen Tanksley’s free throw with six seconds left. But who does that impact, really? I mean you’d have to be a real degenerate to gamble on Hofstra hoops!
Where was I? Oh yeah. Here’s five thoughts I had while watching the game in between navigating a nutty two-year-old between dinnertime and bedtime.
1.) Despite beating the wise guys in Vegas, the loss wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. The Dutchmen, as they have in most of their last 12 losses against BCS schools, got off to a slow start that ended any hopes of an upset. Early nerves did in the Dutchmen, who turned the ball over on their first three possessions and missed 13 of their first 15 shots in falling behind 19-5. The Dutchmen outscored North Carolina State the rest of the way, but the Wolfpack wasted no time quelling any comeback attempts. The first time the Dutchmen moved within eight with 6:37 left in the first, the Wolfpack doubled their lead by ending the half on an 18-10. And North Carolina State went on a 17-8 run immediately after the Dutchmen shaved the deficit back to eight with 10:48 remaining.
2.) The Dutchmen held their own underneath with the bigger Wolfpack, who received 118 minutes Monday out of players 6-foot-5 or taller. The Dutchmen pulled down 17 of their 47 misses from the field and had almost twice as many defensive rebounds (29) as the Wolfpack had offensive rebounds (16). An ability to finish around the basket might have made this game pretty interesting: The Dutchmen, trailing by 11, missed five straight layups over a two-possession stretch slightly before the midway point of the second half. Later, they had two more possessions where they missed a pair of layups.
3.) Freshman forward Rokas Gustys drew his first start with Moussa Kone battling a knee injury and continued to evoke memories of freshmen bigs to whom we don’t want to compare him, for various reasons. Gustys pulled down 12 rebounds in just 21 minutes, which was reminiscent of Halil Kanacevic recording double-digit rebounds against Kansas and UConn within his first three games as a freshman. Gustys is the third freshman since the turn of the century to have at least 10 rebounds in his first two games, and we’re not going to mention the other two because nothing good could come of that. Let’s just say he looks as polished and ready for Division I ball as any first-year big we can remember.
4.) While reigning CAA co-player of the week Brian Bernardi had a rough game (three points on 1-of-5 shooting from 3-point land, one assist and four fouls in 29 minutes), Tanksley and Juan’ya Green proved they have a knack for doing a lot even when they don’t appear to have their best games. Green scored a team-high 19 points despite shooting just 6-of-18 from the field, including 3-of-11 from inside the 3-point arc. Yet he also pulled down eight rebounds and had four assists while playing all 40 minutes. Again: Stokes-esque (the good one). Tanksley played just 24 minutes thanks to early foul trouble but had 13 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and three turnovers, all of which he committed in the first three minutes. They have been as good as advertised thus far.
5.) Interesting notes about the three returnees: Kone missed his first game in three-plus seasons with the Dutchmen. Despite coming off the bench, Dion Nesmith played 31 minutes, second-most on the team, and scored 13 points. He also led the Dutchmen with four turnovers. Jamall Robinson, whose role seems most impacted and/or reduced, scored seven points in 19 minutes. He was held to seven points or less just 12 times in 32 games last season and never played less than 21 minutes in a contest.
3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. North Carolina State, 11/17)
3: Juan’ya Green
2: Ameen Tanksley
1: Rokas Gustys
5: Juan’ya Green
3: Brian Bernardi
2: Ameen Tanksley
1: Rokas Gustys
1: Andre Walker