RALEIGH — There’s something missing from N.C. State’s basketball team and has been for the past two games.
Turnovers have hurt, coach Mark Gottfried said, and the execution on offense needs to be better as does the team’s post defense. But more than any specific on-court problem, there’s a more nebulous concern for the second-year coach.
"We’re going to play and we’re going to play hard but we’ve got to get our groove back," Gottfried said. "We’ve lost our groove a little bit."
The No. 18 Wolfpack will have to find its groove against No. 3 Michigan on the road Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The past two games have been a struggle for the Wolfpack (4-1), who lost by 20 to Oklahoma State and beat UNC-Asheville by two.
The Wolverines have started 5-0 for coach John Beilein, who almost took the Wolfpack job in 2006, as Herb Sendek’s replacement. Instead, Beilein landed at Michigan in 2007, and his sixth team might be his best.
Guards Trey Burke (16.4 points per game) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (18.2) lead the Wolverines, who are coming off consecutive wins over Pittsburgh and Kansas State.
"Trey Burke and Hardaway are two of the better guards we’ll play all year long," Gottfried said.
After the 82-80 win over Asheville last Friday, Gottfried questioned his team’s chemistry. He expanded on the topic on Monday, clarifying he didn’t think jealousy was the root of the team’s problems, rather the adjustment between the four veteran players and three new freshmen.
"We use the term chemistry a lot," Gottfried said. "What is chemistry sometimes? Chemistry is getting a group of guys to completely give to the team first. Then you usually end up with good chemistry."
Other than grooves or chemistry, the biggest problem for N.C. State has been taking care of the ball, Gottfried said. The Wolfpack had 19 turnovers against Asheville and 12 against Oklahoma State.
Junior point guard Lorenzo Brown has 12 turnovers, to five assists, the past two games. In 37 games last season, Brown had 234 assists to 118 turnovers.
"Turnovers have killed us," Gottfried said. "We have to handle the ball better and it starts with Lorenzo. He has to be better."
Ultimately, Gottfried’s looking for improvement after the past two games. The first three games, Gottfried said, the offense was smoother and the team’s defense was effective.
After the loss to Oklahoma State and the close call to Asheville, Gottfried said his team can play better and it will. He’s also not ready to panic.
"It’s early, it’s still November, we haven’t even hit December," Gottfried said. "We’ve got a long way to go."
• De Thaey leaves: Reserve forward Thomas de Thaey left the program Monday and will pursue a pro career in his home country of Belgium. De Thaey, a sophomore, did not play in two of the five games this season and averaged 5.0 points in 9 minutes. De Thaey’s exit means all three players from the recruiting class of 2011 are no longer with the program.