Wolfpack still looking for first ACC road win

NC State Notebook

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N.C. State “lost serve” on the home court Sunday against Miami. This week the Wolfpack has two chances to break.

In an Atlantic Coast Conference season akin to a tennis match, where winning on the road is at a premium and emerging victorious at home is almost obligatory, the Wolfpack will try to create some separation while also atoning for Sunday’s 86-81 loss to the Hurricanes.

There are two road trips for N.C. State this week. With its annual showdown in Chapel Hill against No. 15 North Carolina looming Saturday at noon, the Pack travels to Pittsburgh for a midweek battle with the Panthers. Tip for Wednesday’s game is set for 9 p.m. and State will hope to even its ACC record at 4-4 prior to facing the rival Tar Heels.

The Wolfpack excelled offensively against then No. 23 Miami. N.C. State shot 54.4 percent for the contest and 7-foot-0 sophomore center Omer Yurtseven scored 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting from the floor.

Miami, which dropped out of the Top 25, always had an answer and led for almost the entire game. The Hurricanes, buoyed by an ability to penetrate at will and N.C. State’s struggles defending the pick-and-roll, were an impressive 34-of-59 (57.6 percent) from the floor and made 10-of-19 3-point attempts (52.6 percent).

Looking ahead, N.C. State will need to make a breakthrough on the road after losses in its first three ACC games away from PNC Arena. The game in Pittsburgh represents the next opportunity. It also will be one of the few league contests that the Pack has played against a school that is unranked.

“When you look at those three (road) games I think we played against three really good teams on their home venue and if you go back and look at them, all three teams have had in the last year an unbelievable home record,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said. “So we are going to move forward. Starting (Monday) we are prepping for Pittsburgh and understanding what are challenges are.

“We are coming off what I feel like are two really good games for us. I just want to try to build on that and get these guys ready for that game.”

To compete in the next two games, the defensive woes that have presented itself from time to time and resurfaced against Miami will have to be addressed.

“I think our biggest thing is we’ve had different combinations because they haven’t played together as much,” Keatts said. “We are having a few breakdowns. I think we have to be better and more disciplined as far as our communication and not having so many defensive lapses because of a lack of communication but I am happy with where we are.

“The system is working the way I want it. We are able to pick up guys full-court, we are able to force some tough shots and some quicks shots and even getting some turnovers but we are having too many miscommunication problems.”

Yurtseven has excelled offensively of late. The sophomore from Turkey is averaging 20.2 points per game over his last five contests.

His primary focus is on improving the defensive effort as N.C. State looks to pick up its first road win in league play.

“Any chance I’ve got I try to score but it’s mostly about winning,” Yurtseven said after the Miami loss. “Our defense was not really at a point where we wanted it. That’s why we have a lot to learn from and that’s what we have to get back to, back to working on our defense.”