Good at home, Wolfpack can't let successes cloud road games

jgiglio@newsobserver.comJanuary 29, 2013 

N.C. State has alternated wins and losses over the past five ACC games. The light switch has been on for the Wolfpack at home, including wins over Duke and North Carolina, but off on the road, with losses at Maryland and Wake Forest.

Consistency has eluded No. 19 N.C. State (16-4, 5-2 ACC), which travels to Virginia on Tuesday night (7 p.m., ESPN2), a problem junior guard Lorenzo Brown attributes to a lack of mental focus. Brown, who had 20 points and 11 assists in Saturday’s win over UNC, believes he has a solution.

“If everybody just stays off the Internet and doesn’t listen to what people are saying about us, we’ll do just fine,” Brown said.

That might not be practical, but to Brown’s point, there was plenty of praise for the Wolfpack after an 84-76 win over then-No. 1 Duke on Jan. 12. In N.C. State’s next game, it didn’t score for the first six and half minutes of the game and eventually lost at Maryland, 51-50.

“I think when we beat Duke, there was so much attention around our game, it was hard for us to get past it,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said Monday on the ACC teleconference.

“It’s hard to mentally move past it because you’re getting a lot of attention. I just think, and hope, that our players understand better that in this league you have to mentally move on quickly and get yourself prepared for your next opponent.”

Handling the next game after wins over Duke or UNC has been a 20-year issue for State, which is 1-13 in such situations since the 1992-93 season. Senior forward Richard Howell has been on his teammates about being more consistent in their effort. He made that point before the UNC game and reiterated it after a 28-point lead was cut to five in the second half.

“When we start off a game on fire, the momentum just kind of wears down,” Howell said. “I feel like it’s just a matter of keeping our head in the game.”

Consistency has mostly been an issue on defense. N.C. State has given up at least 50 points in the second half of the past two games. The Pack held onto a big first-half lead against UNC but let a 16-point advantage against Wake Forest go to waste.

Like Georgia Tech and Clemson before them, Virginia (14-5, 4-2 ACC) will attempt to slow N.C. State down and keep the score in the 60s.

N.C. State handled both the Yellow Jackets and Tigers, but both games were at PNC Arena, where N.C. State is 12-0 this season. On the road, the Wolfpack is 1-3, with the lone win coming at last-place Boston College.

After Saturday’s win over UNC, Howell said N.C. State’s goal was to win the ACC, not just beat the Tar Heels or Duke. To reach that goal, N.C. State has to figure out a way to win away from PNC Arena.

“We just need to get it done on the road; it’s as simple as that,” Howell said.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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