RALEIGH — Its rare, but there can be beneficial losses in college basketball.
N.C. State almost certainly experienced one 86-75 to Indiana on Wednesday night in the RBC Center.
In their fourth season with Tom Crean as coach, the once mighty Hoosiers (7-0) are getting back to where the Wolfpack hopes to go, but much quicker, with Mark Gottfried.
It was a game that exposed some flaws in the Pack (5-2) but also underscored the teams potential and did very little to debunk the notion that Gottfrieds first team will be good enough to finish among the top four in the ACC.
It was a missed opportunity, Gottfried said. But games like tonight will make us better.
After falling behind early, the Wolfpack used an occasionally dominant interior performance by bigs DeShawn Painter, C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell to take a 42-41 halftime lead.
It wasnt until Indiana center Cody Zeller (19 points, seven rebounds) gave his team an inside counter force that States defense finally sputtered during the final four minutes.
Inside, they couldnt stop us, said Leslie, who didnt start but finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds and blocked three shots in 33 minutes.
We just had a couple of big letdowns on defense late in the game and we just lost control of what was working. Well learn from this.
State is multi-tasking on the run and will be for the next month or so. But against a Big Ten opponent that likely will be in the NCAA tournament, State learned that Lorenzo Brown (19 points, six rebounds, five assists) can break down defenses and that Scott Wood can find perimeter shots against an aggressive defense.
Its fun to play these kind of (non-ACC) games that were playing this year, said senior wing C.J. Williams. This is the kind of opponent our fans want to see us play and measure us by.
More of the same is just ahead at Stanford on Sunday, a visit from Syracuse on Dec. 17 and a trip to St. Bonaventure on Dec. 20.
Were going to get our chances with this tough schedule, Gottfried said. This game let us learn how good we have to be on every possession.
The Wolfpacks ceiling likely will not be known until February. But Gottfried has a group with a lot of talented personnel. The potential for an NCAA bid is there.