NC State running out of chances

jgiglio@newsobserver.comFebruary 21, 2014 

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SYRACUSE, NY - FEBRUARY 15: Ralston Turner #22 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack drives to the basket against the defense of Tyler Ennis #11 of the Syracuse Orange as Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried watches during the second half at the Carrier Dome on February 15, 2014 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeated North Carolina State 56-55. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

RICH BARNES — Getty Images

  • N.C. State at Virginia Tech

    When/where: 2 p.m., Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va.

    TV/Radio: Fox Sports Carolinas, 101.5-WRAL

    Projected starting lineups

    N.C. State (16-10, 6-7 ACC)

    G Tyler Lewis 3.9 ppg, 3.2 apg

    G Ralston Turner 10.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg

    F T.J. Warren 23.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg

    F Kyle Washington 4.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg

    F Jordan Vandenberg 4.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg

    Virginia Tech (9-16, 2-11)

    G Devin Wilson 9.2 ppg, 4.6 apg

    G Ben Emelogu 10.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg

    F Jarell Eddie 13.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg

    F Trevor Thompson 4.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg

    F Joey van Zegeren 5.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg

    Player to watch

    Jarell Eddie, forward, Virginia Tech

    Since scoring 24 points in a Dec. 8 win at Miami, Eddie has averaged 9 points in 12 ACC games. The inconsistency from the senior from Charlotte is just one of the problems for the young Hokies.

    Observation

    Since back-to-back 20-point losses to Maryland and Florida State, Virginia Tech has played better, losing in double overtime at Pitt, beating Miami and losing by four points to Virginia on Tuesday. ... This is the first time N.C. State has played three straight ACC road games since the 1990-91 season. ... Mark Gottfried is 3-0 vs. Virginia Tech, including a 70-58 win in Blacksburg in 2012.

    Joe Giglio

— N.C. State has had problems in key moments of the second half of a handful of losses this season, but none like Tuesday’s loss at Clemson.

The Wolfpack watched a one-point halftime lead turn into a 17-point loss to the Tigers and it wasn’t difficult to discern why, junior Ralston Turner said.

“We had too many turnovers and defensively we just weren’t very good,” Turner said. “That can’t 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) aren’t 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 can’t trick the committee. You better find a way to get it done and that’s our job right now to get it done on the court.”

There wasn’t 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 Tuesday’s loss.

‘That’s not good enough and we know it,” Gottfried said.

There wasn’t much Gottfried was encouraged by in the Clemson loss.

“We didn’t play well, we didn’t rebound the ball well,” Gottfried said. “We couldn’t make a shot, we couldn’t 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. State’s 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 Tuesday’s 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. State’s 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 can’t afford any more lapses.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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