What is up with Lorenzo Brown?
That was the question a lot of NC State fans were asking after a four-game stretch where Brown didn't seem like his normal self.
The struggles for the sophomore point guard started after the Wolfpack's January 19th win over Boston College where he totaled nine points, 11 assists, and three steals in the victory.
Over his next four games, Brown averaged just 7.2 points and 5.8 assists, below his season averages, but even more troubling was the high number of turnovers. He had five, five, four, and five turnovers respectively in those games... the first time all year he had at least five turnovers in a game.
It seemed to reach a critical point for Brown at halftime of the recent Boston College game. Wolfpack head coach Mark Gottfried said he saw a side of Brown that he hadn't seen all year.
"Lorenzo got a little down on himself," said Gottfried. “We were allowing things to bother us and then we were out of sync. Then you saw the body language, and that’s something we have not had."
Gottfried said he spoke with Brown and the rest of the team at halftime about their body language and they responded. Lorenzo made big plays down the stretch that led to the win.
"I think [Lorenzo] is putting a lot of pressure on himself," Gottfried said on Friday. "He has such a high expectation for how he should play that I think he is frustrated that he hasn't played as well as he would have liked.
"What I did like is that when the game was on the line he had two great passes that were really big for us. He didn't completely eliminate himself from playing well down the stretch.
The numbers against Boston College were not good for Brown. He hit just 1-of-5 shots and finished with five points. He did have a game-high seven assists but also a game-high five turnovers.
However, it looks like the plays he made late against Boston College, or perhaps the talk he received from Gottfried, sparked Brown, as he looked like confident and poised on Saturday versus Wake Forest.
Brown finished with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field, including back-to-back isolation baskets late in the game to seal the deal. He also totaled a game-high eight assists with just two turnovers.
"I'm very proud of Lorenzo," said Gottfried after the win. "Lorenzo hasn't played as good the last couple of games. It was nice to see him play better and play with confidence. I thought that was important today.
"In the Virginia game and the BC game, both games were slow, slugfest-type games and he didn't really get out and run. He walks away thinking he's just not playing well, and he's down. I was happy for him today. He pushed tempo, got out in the break. He made a couple of great plays. I think he had seven or eight assists at he half. I thought that was key."
"I'm proud of [Lorenzo] because he kind of got down on himself a little bit and he picked himself back up this game," added senior guard C.J. Williams. "I just kept talking to him, telling him to fight through it because that's how basketball goes."
Brown is now averaging 11.9 points and ranks second in the ACC in assists (6.8) and steals (1.9) and is one of the league's top rebounding guards (4.3). While his first season at point guard has been a work in progress, Gottfried has been pleased with Brown's development, despite the recent ups-and-downs.
"He's doing well," said Gottfried. "Again, this is the first year for him being a point guard. It is a different role when you have to be the guy that shoulders so much. He's learning it."
NC State is now 17-7 overall and 6-3 in ACC play, and the Wolfpack returns to the hardwood Thursday night in Atlanta, Georgia against Georgia Tech. Brown, who grew up in Roswell, a suburb of Atlanta, will be returning home to play in front of family and friends.
To knock off the Yellow Jackets the Wolfpack will need another big game from Brown, and it looks like he could be back on the right track.