BAYAMON, Puerto Rico — The confidence that has become N.C. States trademark was missing Sunday night in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The dominant performances by junior stars C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown, those were gone, too.
All that was left for the sixth-ranked Wolfpack was a humbling 76-56 loss to hungry, aggressive Oklahoma State team.
This one stings and it should hurt, N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. I think we are a lot better basketball team than we played (like) tonight but it is what it is.
Leslie fouled out less than 3 minutes in the second half, with just two points, but the damage was done long before that. Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart scored 18 points in the first half, most at Browns expense.
Smart finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, four blocks and four steals to be named MVP of the tournament. The freshman guard played with confidence and a killer attitude, two things noticeably missing from N.C. State, he said.
There wasnt really a lot of intensity, you could tell by the look on their faces, Smart said.
The vacant stares that marked the lost season at the end of Sidney Lowes tenure returned after a listless first half by the N.C. State veterans who lived through that misery.
Gottfried called the way N.C. State started the game too casual.
I didnt like that at all, Gottfried said. We got down on ourselves, we were frustrated and we didnt play through some of those situations.
If not for freshmen T.J. Warren (15 points) and Rodney Purivs (16 points), the final margin would have been even worse.
Purvis said he expected Oklahoma States best shot but he thought the Wolfpack would have a better response.
This can happen any night, Purvis said. We have a bullseye on our back. Everybody is gunning for us so we have to prepare ourselves physically and mentally.
The scoring balance and defensive intensity from the first three games of the season were a mere punch line for N.C. States woes on Sunday night. With Leslie in foul trouble and Brown struggling to handle the ball and Smart, the supporting cast couldnt keep the Wolfpack in the game.
Leslie checked into the game after the second half started and he picked up a quick, fourth foul. The junior forward protested the call and picked up a technical foul, which counted as his fifth personal. With 17:06 left the game, Leslies night was over.
Oklahoma State made all four of its free throws from the two fouls to take a 46-31 lead after the sequence. N.C. State got as close as 11, after back-to-back baskets by Warren, but LeBryan Nash (23 points) picked up where Smart left off in the first half and the Cowboys cruised to a relatively easy win.
Brown finished the game with six points and seven turnovers. Scott Wood was 1 of 11 from the floor and Richard Howell fouled out with only six points.
Instead of joy ride back to Raleigh on Sunday night, with a tournament championship in hand, the Wolfpack took a long charter flight with plenty of time to ponder what went wrong against the Cowboys.
We have to be able to look in the mirror and we have to be a lot better than we were tonight, Gottfried said.