Mark Gottfried was as animated during N.C. States 65-56 win against Maryland on Monday night as he has been at any point during the season, and maybe even in any game in three seasons with the Wolfpack.
The Wolfpacks coach wasnt excited just because his team won, 65-56, or because it was his birthday, rather it was the way his team won. Worn down mentally by recent losses, trailing by 11 points early in the second half and without the services of its best player, N.C. State kept competing.
Its a message of perseverance that Gottfried has been trying to impart to his young team with mixed results. That his team kept fighting, and was rewarded with a win, was enough for Gottfried to put his exuberance on full display.
Gottfried compared this season, with a new roster, to building a house and said these games were part of the foundation.
Weve got these young guys and they are going to get better as they get older, Gottfried said.
We all want it to happen right now. I do. I want to be great today, tomorrow, but they are young. Sometimes what happened at Duke, it happens, or what happened in our Virginia game.
The most important thing for our guys is, regardless of win or lose, is to keep competing all the time.
Thats what the Pack did Monday with junior Ralston Turner stepping in for injured T.J. Warren and putting up 23 points. As important, guards Cat Barber and Desmond Lee put their recent struggles behind and keyed the comeback early in the second half.
Barber finished with 13 points and four assists in 34 minutes and Lee added 14 points and four steals in 36 minutes. Add in the rebounding of forward Kyle Washington (10) and the defense of forward BeeJay Anya (four blocks) and there were enough contributions to give the Wolfpack hope that if it can duplicate the effort from Monday, it can reinvigorate its season.
With Georgia Tech (Sunday) and Florida State (Jan. 29) next on the schedule and both at home, the Pack has a chance to even its ACC record.
It cant do that without figuring out a way to move forward, with Warren, and by keeping up its confidence and intensity.
Whats wrong with Terps? While N.C. State and Gottfried celebrated, complete with Gottfrieds locker-room dance moves being uploaded to the teams website, Maryland wasnt quite sure what happened.
The Terrapins entered the season with NCAA tournament hopes but find themselves 11-8 overall and 3-3 in the ACC. Third-year coach Mark Turgeon has one of the most talented rosters in the ACC, but he doesnt have the results to show for it.
The Terps have ugly home losses to Oregon State and Boston University, which are not counter-balanced by a neutral site win against Providence.
After letting N.C. State, without its best player, erase a double-digit deficit during the second half, sophomore forward Charles Mitchell, who finished with 18 rebounds, couldnt quite believe it.
Its a bad loss for us, Mitchell said, according to the Washington Post. Were better than that team. We know were better than that team.
It doesnt get any easier for the Terps. They will face Pittsburgh, which beat them by 20this season, in their next game. They still have two games against Virginia, one at home vs. Syracuse, a trip to North Carolina and a trip to Duke.
Turgeon probably needs at least three wins from that group of games to make the NCAA tournament. If not the National Invitation Tournament calls again.
Percentages: FG .314, FT .385. 3-Point Goals: 7-22, .318 (Smotrycz 2-3, Allen 2-6, Wells 1-3, Layman 1-4, Faust 1-6). Team Rebounds: 6. Blocked Shots: 5 (Layman 2, Dodd, Cleare, Faust). Turnovers: 12 (Wells 3, Allen 2, Mitchell 2, Cleare, Dodd, Smotrycz, Graham, Faust). Steals: 4 (Faust, Cleare, Allen, Mitchell). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .404, FT .636. 3-Point Goals: 5-19, .263 (Turner 5-15, Barber 0-2, Lewis 0-2). Team Rebounds: 8. Blocked Shots: 5 (Anya 4, Vandenberg). Turnovers: 8 (Lee 4, Washington 3, Turner). Steals: 5 (Lee 4, Barber). Technical Fouls: None.
A11,447. OfficialsTim Nestor, Gary Maxwell, Ed Corbett.