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NC State is not making it easy on themselves

March 1, 2015 Columns, Your Phil of Hoops No Comments

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. – NC State is not making it easy on themselves. The Wolfpack entered Saturday in a pretty good position regarding the NCAA Tournament, but left Boston having made things a little tougher.

Give Boston College some of the credit, as the Eagles have gone toe-to-toe with pretty much every top team and played them tough before succumbing. The Wolfpack surely knew this wasn’t going to be easy. BC made it tough, especially with their interior defense as they made it hard for the Wolfpack to finish in close, and the Wolfpack made it tougher by appearing listless from the outset. The end result showed up on the bottom line, and one stat in the box score told a lot of the story: NC State shot 32.8 percent from the field, while Boston College shot 56.8 percent.

Head coach Mark Gottfried gave BC plenty of credit, and went out of his way to say he wanted to take nothing away from the Eagles. But his team had something to do with this outcome as well.

“We had an emotional win, and we looked like we had a hangover, and that’s unfortunate for our group,” said Gottfried. “We didn’t have any zip, we didn’t have quickness, we couldn’t quickly get anywhere on the floor. Our jump shots were falling short – we must have had 10 or 12 that hit the front of the rim.”

It wasn’t just the young frontcourt of NC State that had trouble scoring; the guards, who they rely heavily on, had a tough time as well, as Gottfried indirectly alluded to with the jumpers that came up short. Their starting perimeter trio of Cat Barber, Ralston Turner and Trevor Lacey came into the game combining to average 41 points per game. When they combine to score at least 45 points, the Wolfpack are 8-1; when they don’t, as was the case on Saturday, they are 9-11. They combined for just 33 points on 11-39 shooting on Saturday afternoon.

The only thing close to a bright spot for the Wolfpack was Kyle Washington scoring 14 points on 5-8 shooting in 18 minutes, and grabbing seven rebounds. He gave them a bit of life in the first half, but it didn’t last long. Boston College had another gear late in the half and went into the locker room up 43-26, fittingly closing the half with a three-point play right before the buzzer.

NC State had a bit of a mid-season slump, losing three straight and five of six, with three of those losses coming at home. That took attention away from their 3-1 ACC start that included a win over Duke. Wins at Louisville and North Carolina recently put them in a solid position for the NCAA Tournament so long as they avoid a bad loss from here on out. The Wolfpack might have exhausted themselves a bit from the latter, and they paid the price on Saturday at both ends of the floor.

“We had no zip, no energy,” Gottfried said. “In our timeouts, they were dead. We were trying, everybody was trying, even the players were trying. They’re cheering each other on in timeouts, then we go back on the floor and look like we’re two steps slow. We were slower than molasses.”

Now they have that bad loss, though mitigated slightly by the fact that it was on the road. NC State still has to go to Clemson and then host Syracuse. They may draw another team that could hand them a bad loss in the ACC Tournament, though it’s too early to tell how the seeds will shake out. While they appear to be in good shape, they may have run out of room for error. They have played one of the nation’s toughest schedules overall, which also helps.

NC State isn’t quite the toughest team to figure out, but they are a tough team to project right now. It doesn’t help that many other teams on the bubble have little to stand out from the others in that place. The Wolfpack is 8-8 in ACC play with a good, not great, resume. Other than a six-game winning streak to start the season – all of those games at home – the recent three-game winning streak was their longest, so they haven’t been able to sustain success for very long since November. Now, they need to sustain some at least for another week-plus.

“For us, we have proven on certain nights we’re as good as anybody in the country, and on other nights we haven’t been,” Gottfried reflected.

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