PITTSBURGH – Villanova's proficiency at knocking down the three-point shot certainly has the attention of North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried.
The top-seeded Wildcats (33-2), who take on the No. 8 Wolfpack (21-13) on Saturday night at the Consol Energy Center, connected on 11 three-pointers in 22 attempts in their 93-52 victory over Lafayette in a second-round game. Gottfried said his defense will have its hands full.
"It's hard, especially since we like to play two post players throughout the game," Gottfried said Friday, "so that will be a difficult thing for us to match up against. We've got to do a great job of eliminating the open looks. I think a lot of it starts with their dribble penetration. They create penetration off the ball screens and just using their quickness.
"One thing they do that I think goes unnoticed with Jay's team is how well they move the ball. They find the next shooter pretty well and they trust that next pass is going to find a good shooter that's going to make a shot. We have to be aware of that, no question about that, and somehow eliminate the number of three-point baskets they get.
The Wolfpack, which used a last-second basket by BeeJay Anya to defeat No. 9 Louisiana State 66-65 in Thursday night's final game, also have some three-point marksmen of their own. Seniors Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner have knocked down 163 deep attempts between them although both struggled against LSU, going a combined three for 17.
However, Gottfried was pleased how his young frontcourt players responded in North Carolina State's narrow win Thursday night. Anya, a 6-foot-9, 295-pound sophomore, had two baskets in the final minute, and sophomores Lennard Freeman and Kyle Washington and freshman Malik Abu also made big shots.
"I think it makes a difference," he said. "Early in the season, we were not much getting very much scoring at all from our interior guys. They've come along, they've developed, they're getting better. They're getting more confident."
The Wolfpack were 4-7 in the ACC on Feb. 11 but won seven of their last eight league games. Gottfried said he's always looking for more consistency.
"When we've played well, a lot of different guys have stepped up and contributed," he said. "We've had some nights where we haven't shot the ball well. We've had some nights where we've only gotten scoring from a couple of guys. Then on some other nights, it seems like everybody is contributing a lot more, especially offensively."