Still time for N.C. State to make season a memorable one

jgiglio@newobserver.comFebruary 9, 2013 

Scott Wood sloughed to the corner of the hallway outside of the visitor’s locker room at Duke late Thursday night.

Wood, as he usually is, was the first N.C. State player out to explain to the media what happened during the Wolfpack’s 98-85 loss to the Blue Devils.

Wood, a senior, has been a de facto spokesman for the program for the past four years. He had hoped, and thought, during the preseason, that there would be fewer “What happened?” postgames like the one Thursday for N.C. State this season. Thursday’s loss dropped the Wolfpack (16-7) to 5-5 in the ACC going into Sunday’s game at Clemson.

With Miami’s stranglehold on the ACC lead, and Duke right behind the Hurricanes, N.C. State’s shot at its first ACC regular-season title since 1989 is all but gone. There is still time left, eight games in the regular season then the ACC tournament and NCAA tournament, for the Wolfpack to make this season memorable, Wood said.

“Sitting at 5-5 is not a great place to be, but you have to look at things you as an individual can do better and make sure we stay together as a team,” Wood said.

N.C. State will have to pick up the pieces on the road, where it has lost four straight in the ACC, and likely without injured guard Lorenzo Brown.

N.C. State has trips to Clemson, North Carolina (Feb. 23), Georgia Tech (March 3) and Florida State (March 9) left on the schedule. The Wolfpack gets Virginia Tech (Feb. 16), Florida State (Feb. 19), Boston College (Feb. 27) and Wake Forest (March 6) at home, where it is 12-1 this season and 4-1 in the ACC.

N.C. State will probably need a 6-2 finish to get one of the top four seeds for the ACC tournament and an opening-round bye in the conference tournament.

All five of the ACC wins came with Brown at the point. Brown has missed the past two games, losses to Miami and Duke, with a sprained left ankle.

“He’s doubtful,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said after the Duke game. “I have no idea if he’ll be able to play Sunday. We’ll just go day by day, but he’s not ready to play right now.”

Without Brown, freshman Tyler Lewis has averaged 14.5 points and 5.5 assists in the past two games, after playing sparingly in the first eight ACC games.

Lewis’ confidence has grown with his minutes, as has the confidence of his teammates in him.

“He’s doing such a good job for us,” Wood said.

N.C. State’s problems weren’t on offense against Duke. Senior forward Richard Howell scored 23 points, the most he has had in an ACC game in his career, and the 85 points were the second-most the Pack has put up in an ACC game this season.

The problems were on defense, specifically in the first half. Duke became the third ACC team to score 50 points in a half against the Wolfpack. The Blue Devils put 58 points in the first half, 30 on 3-pointers, and built an insurmountable 21-point halftime advantage.

N.C. State was able to turn a 78-73 loss at Duke last year into a positive. N.C. State led by 20 points in that game but not once on Thursday. Still, Howell said there was a way for this team to do the same from this year’s loss.

“Even though we lost, I feel like it could be a stepping stone,” Howell said. “We definitely fought back, were down by 20 something at one point and we cut the lead to (eight). We never hung our heads.”

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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