In the first half of No. 19 N.C. State’s 58-55 loss at Virginia Wednesday night, junior point guard Lorenzo Brown went down with a sprained left ankle and did not return.
And it looks as if the Wolfpack will be without his services on Saturday when they host No. 14 Miami Saturday afternoon, as head coach Mark Gottfried stated on Friday that it’s “unlikely” that Brown will be available.
To say the least this would be a big loss for the Wolfpack, as Brown currently leads the ACC in assists (6.9 apg) while also averaging 12.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per contest. If Brown is unable to go N.C. State will most likely go with two freshmen at the point, alternating starter Rodney Purvis and reserve Tyler Lewis.
Purvis is certainly gifted with the basketball in his hands, averaging 9.6 points and 1.7 assists per game in 19 starts, and Lewis arrived in Raleigh touted as one of the best distributors in the freshman class. But neither saw a great deal of time at the point with a healthy Brown playing just over 33 minutes per game.
With the Hurricanes limiting opponents to 37% shooting and forcing 12.8 turnovers per game this would be a significant challenge for both players. And that’s not even factoring the task of guarding Shane Larkin (12.9 ppg, 4.0 apg) and Durand Scott (13.8 ppg, 2.9 apg) into the equation.
In addition to Brown’s offensive qualities he can make life difficult for opponents on the other end as well due to his 6-5 frame, and he’s second in the ACC with an average of 2.1 steals per game. So who would draw the assignment of guarding Larkin if Brown can’t go? According to David Morrison of the Greensboro News-Record Purvis may end up being the choice.
The Wolfpack’s best bet is probably to utilize the 6-3 Purvis at the point against 5-11 Miami guard Shane Larkin.
Larkin’s got the speed edge on Purvis, but the Wolfpack freshman does have four inches on him. Larkin could be a handful on defense for Purvis, who hasn’t been tasked with ballhandling duties much this season. Larkin’s the only ACC player with more steals per game than Brown.
N.C. State needs a win on Saturday afternoon if they’re to have any chance of winning their first ACC regular season title since 1989, but having to deal with Brown’s injury in addition to three conference losses may end up being too much to overcome.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.