DAYTON, Ohio — This is where the season ends for N.C. State, on the corner of disappointment and despair in Dayton.
A season that started with so much hope lasted 40 minutes in the NCAA tournament game. Temple, with 31 points from Khalif Wyatt, turned out the lights on N.C. States season with a 76-72 win in the round of 64 on Friday afternoon.
There was no ACC title, as was predicted before the season started, nor was there another NCAA run for the Wolfpack (24-11), only a season of missed opportunities.
After the loss, second-year coach Mark Gottfried tried to explain what went wrong not only on Friday against Temple but throughout the season.
Gottfried talked about specific problems, such as on defense, but also bigger-picture problems about maturity and focus.
"I think this team struggled with a lot of things," Gottfried said. "We had some immaturity at times. It just seemed hard at times to have everybody buy in all the way. For us to get better in the future, everybody needs to. Our young guys need to learn that lesson."
The Sweet 16 finish from last March never seemed so far away on Friday while Temple was creating turnovers, burying shots and building a 16-point lead at the half.
N.C. State got 20 points from junior forward C.J. Leslie and 22 points and nine assists from junior guard Lorenzo Brown, in perhaps their last college game, but the issues from the first half sunk the Wolfpack.
Indifference on defense and careless ballhandling led to a game-changing 18-3 run by Temple after the game was tied at 15 at the 12-minute mark in the first half.
"Everything that could wrong in the first half did," said forward Richard Howell, who finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds.
The Owls (24-9) did just about everything right with Wyatt and forward Jake OBrien (18 points) turning the Wolfpack mistakes into points.
N.C. State trailed by as many as 18 in the second half before it made a move. Senior Scott Wood didnt score in the first 34 minutes of the game.
Wood buried consecutive 3-pointers the second made it 63-60 at 3:09. Wyatt countered with two of his 12 free throws on Temples next possession.
State had one chance to tie the game in the final 2 minutes but Browns 3-pointer, down 65-62, bounced out and the Owls made just enough free throws to close out the win.
"We really did fight hard, we fought back really, really well but, boy, the start was not good," Gottfried said.
The only player to start with any energy was Leslie, who promised "to be me" on Thursday and he delivered. Leslie finished 8 of 12 from the field and added five rebounds and two blocks before fouling out with 6 seconds left.
While Leslie was dunking and knocking down shots in the first half, Wood was silent from outside, T.J. Warren was scoreless and Brown had six points. The struggles with the ball, 10 turnovers, were only compounded by the problems on defense.
"I think we just needed to come out with a little better energy," Wood said. "We were just kind of lackadaisical and gave them some easy ones."
Gottfried lamented the defensive lapses and the season-long pursuit to solve some of the problems on defense. He said the team could never "sustain and maintain great defensive effort" throughout the season.
Gottfried also talked about the teams inability to turn the promise of the preseason into anything more substantial than one-and-done NCAA appearance.
"The whole year became this struggle to reach higher than we were," Gottfried said. "We kept reaching and we couldnt get there and we just seemed to always be falling short."
Coach Mark Gottfried used freshmen guards Rodney Purvis (12) and Tyler Lewis (five) for a total of 17 minutes in Friday's game. Players don't make decisions to transfer based on one game, but Gottfried's inability to establish a consistent role for either Purvis or Lewis in the final month of the season could be wind up being a factor.
Duke's Mason Plumlee was the only player to score at least 30 points against N.C. State during the regular season. Miami's Durand Scott knocked N.C. State out of the ACC tournament with 32 points and Temple's Khalif Wyatt knocked State out of the NCAA tournament with 31 points on Friday.
N.C. State scored at least 50 points in a half only twice this season: the first and last games. State scored 50 in the second half on Friday and 56 in the second half of the opener against Miami (Ohio) back on Nov. 9.
Gottfried's been to the NCAA tournament nine times, with three different teams, but he's never won a tournament game in consecutive years.