NC State plays the third of three straight “tune up” games before the season really begins in earnest. The opponent is Arkansas Little Rock and the game is at 1 PM EST tomorrow.
The Arkansas Little Rock Trojans (3-2) are coming off a ten point loss @ Memphis. The Trojans led through much of the first half and only trailed by 5 at half time. The Trojans held the Tigers to only 39% shooting (23% from 3) and forced 19 Memphis turnovers.
This is State and Memphis’ second straight common opponent in back to back games. Memphis blew out Alcorn State by 40+ while N.C. State looked largely disinterested against the same team. That suggests a spoiler alert if the Pack doesn’t show up, but it feels more like an outlier from Memphis than a cause for concern.
Last year the Trojans were led by senior Rayjon Tucker who was a very good shooter and a hot commodity on the graduate transfer market. They also had a big freshman Euro center who doesn’t seem to be on the roster this season. They still finished last in the Sun Belt.
This year Little Rock is playing an “iron 3” man rotation led by sophomore PG Markquis Nowell, who has not subbed out of a game thus far this year. He is averaging 20 ppg on 47% shooting. The 5 ft 7 inch, 155 lb sophomore also averages 5+ assists and 3.6 steals per game.
They have two other players who have played 85%+ of their team’s minutes. The guys each average 10-13 ppg, but at some level if you are out there that many minutes on a mediocre to bad team, someone has to score and rebound.
Unlike last year when Tucker could heat up from outside, the Trojans aren’t a good three point shooting team. Coupet shoots 45% from 3 but has only taken 15 of them. Only three other players from Little Rock have even made a 3 pointer on the young season.
Despite Nowell’s minutes, control of the ball and assists, Little Rock turns it over at a fairly high rate. Memphis forced 26 turnovers and I expect the same against the Pack.
As a NC State fan, I am looking for the Pack to wear Little Rock down and win by 15+ points. NC State has too much size and skilled depth and will apply pressure to the Trojans.
I am also looking to see if Markell Johnson can find his shot. Most of his attempts have been from the perimeter and he is trying to feature a step back 3 pointer that he seemingly added to his game in the offseason. That’s a tough shot on a gimpy ankle, so State fans should watch and see whether he can start connecting. The Pack will need him to shoot better than 16% from three if we are to play well during an important, upcoming 5 game stretch.