CHAPEL HILL — C.J. Leslie apologized to his teammates at halftime of Saturday’s loss at North Carolina.
The N.C. State junior forward had six turnovers as the Wolfpack fell behind 34-28 at the half.
“He said it was his fault and he was going to make up for it,” N.C. State guard Lorenzo Brown said. “He tried to do his best but it wasn’t working for him.”
Leslie, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds in N.C. State’s 91-83 win over UNC on Jan. 26, finished Saturday’s 76-65 loss with six points, four rebounds and six turnovers in 30 minutes.
N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried tried to let Leslie play through his problems in the first half, giving him 17 minutes, and then he tried to give him some perspective on the bench.
Leslie watched the first 9 minutes and 23 seconds of the second half from the bench. When he came in, the Wolfpack led 49-45. His dunk at 8:08, one of his three field goals, gave the Pack a 55-52 lead.
The Tar Heels took over from there, going on an 18-2 run, Leslie was mostly a bystander during UNC’s decisive run.
On paper, Leslie who leads the team in scoring (15.7 points per game), had an advantage against UNC guard P.J. Hairston. N.C. State tried to establish Leslie early against Hairston, but Leslie turned the ball over four times in the first 6 minutes of the game.
“I’m pretty sure they told him it was a mismatch,” Hairston said. “But I didn’t see it as a mismatch.”
Gottfried said he wasn’t concerned about Leslie, who has a propensity to run hot and cold and has had a history of problems against UNC, but he did challenge his star after the game.
“He’s a great player and great players got to step up and play, period,” Gottfried said. “I love him as much as anybody but when you’re a good player, then you have to play better.”
Leslie did not talk with the media after the game. Brown said Leslie knew that he struggled.
“He just had a bad game,” Brown said. “I had a bad game and he had a bad game. We’re going to get in the gym and work on that.”
Brown had 20 points and 11 assists in the Wolfpack’s win over UNC in Raleigh. He finished with 12 points and 12 assists but he was loose with the ball (four turnovers) and out-scored by UNC point guard Marcus Paige.
Gottfried praised Paige’s effort after the game but also wondered about this team’s collective rebounding effort.
Senior Richard Howell finished with 17 rebounds, and State out-rebounded UNC 43 to 34, but Gottfried wanted more help from Leslie.
“Are we expecting Richard to get 30 rebounds?” Gottfried asked. “I mean, holy mackerel, somebody else has to rebound the ball. Calvin has to step up, period.”