RALEIGH — N.C. State has had problems in key moments of the second half of a handful of losses this season, but none like Tuesdays loss at Clemson.
The Wolfpack watched a one-point halftime lead turn into a 17-point loss to the Tigers and it wasnt difficult to discern why, junior Ralston Turner said.
We had too many turnovers and defensively we just werent very good, Turner said. That cant happen.
N.C. State (16-10, 6-7 ACC) will try to avoid a repeat of the Clemson collapse Saturday at Virginia Tech. The last-place Hokies (9-16, 2-11) arent as big of a concern to Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried as his own team.
A week ago, the Pack saw its best chance for a marquee win for its NCAA tournament resume, at No. 1 Syracuse, slip through its fingers in the final seconds. The Pack followed that 56-55 heartbreak with an NCAA tournament bubble-busting effort against the Tigers.
With five games left before the ACC tournament, N.C. State finds itself in a desperation situation for a third consecutive NCAA tournament bid. The Wolfpack needs to close with a flurry, and without any room for a missed step.
We understand that our backs are against the wall, Gottfried said. You cant trick the committee. You better find a way to get it done and thats our job right now to get it done on the court.
There wasnt much about the 73-56 loss to the Tigers that qualified as getting it done. The Tigers started quickly and led 26-14 in the first half.
The stretch from the 7:13-mark to halftime, N.C. State outscored Clemson 19-6 and took a 33-32 lead. Gottfried said his team played well for about a quarter of Tuesdays loss.
Thats not good enough and we know it, Gottfried said.
There wasnt much Gottfried was encouraged by in the Clemson loss.
We didnt play well, we didnt rebound the ball well, Gottfried said. We couldnt make a shot, we couldnt defend. We were slow, it was a litany of things.
N.C. State was out-rebounded 31-24 by the Tigers and outscored 41-23 in the second half.
The Wolfpack had similar stretches this season, notably in home losses to Missouri and Pittsburgh, two games that could have swung N.C. States NCAA chances the other way.
N.C. State led Missouri 53-43 with 8:30 left in the second half and lost 68-64. The Pack jumped out to a 19-4 lead and led by eight at the half but wilted in the second half, much like Tuesdays loss.
Part of the problem is inexperience, Turner said. This is the first time through a major conference schedule for most of the nine players in N.C. States regular rotation.
But part of it is also mental, Turner said.
We thought we were right where we wanted to be, Turner said of the Clemson game. Second half, we kind of relaxed a bit to start off and it cost us big.
The Wolfpack cant afford any more lapses.