Complete effort still a painful loss for Wolfpack

jgiglio@newsobserver.comFebruary 27, 2014 

— There was so much to like about the way N.C. State played North Carolina on Wednesday night that it almost dulled some of coach Mark Gottfried’s pain after an excruciating overtime loss.

Almost.

The Wolfpack (17-11, 7-8 ACC) lost a classic ACC basketball game, 85-84 to the Tar Heels, one David Thompson or Michael Jordan could have walked out of history and fit right into.

As Gottfried pointed out, UNC made one more play – the last basket by superb guard Marcus Paige with 0.9 seconds left – which meant a loss for the Wolfpack, despite its most complete performance and gutsiest effort of the season.

“I’m hurting for our guys right now because I thought they laid it on the line,” Gottfried said. “They gave everything they could give.”

After the game, Gottfried started to rattle off all the good things his players did, from sophomore T.J. Warren’s ridiculous scoring display (36 points) to the unheralded contributions from guard Ralston Turner and the unexpected energy from forward BeeJay Anya.

“I thought we made some great plays in key times,” Gottfried said. “You can go through the whole lineup. It’s just a tough one, a tough one to walk out of here.”

Warren carried the Wolfpack’s offense, scoring 25 of the team’s final 38 points, and his duel with Paige (35 points) will be what’s remembered for the next 40 years, but he had help.

Turner, who finished with four 3-pointers and 16 points, drilled State’s most important shot of regulation, a 3-pointer with 49 seconds left after Paige had given the Tar Heels a 69-66 lead on the previous possession.

Anya, a freshman, had eight of his 10 points in the first half, which helped the Pack take a 34-26 lead at the break. N.C. State was out-rebounded 52-36 in the loss in Chapel Hill on Feb. 1. Anya had four offensive rebounds and made all four of his field goals.

Forwards Kyle Washington (10 rebounds) and Jordan Vandenberg (seven rebounds) both provided important work on the glass and on defense with four blocks each.

It was the kind of team effort, with all players fully aware of the stakes of the game – and living up to the moment – that N.C. State didn’t seem capable of in January.

“I’m extremely proud of our team, extremely proud,” Gottfried said. “I loved our effort; I loved our competitiveness.”

All of the contributions by the supporting cast got a little lost in the glare of Warren’s performance. It wasn’t just that Warren scored a lot, it was how he took control of the game.

After picking up his fourth foul at 8:01 in the second half, Warren sat for almost four minutes. He came back in at 4:21 and scored on three of N.C. State’s next four possessions.

UNC used J.P. Tokoto, Leslie McDonald and James Michael McAdoo on Warren without success. The 1-3-1 zone, which was so effective against Duke, didn’t faze Warren either.

“We couldn’t stop him,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “We absolutely couldn’t stop him.”

Warren made two free throws with 1.5 seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 71 and force overtime. He made one of two free throws with 7.7 seconds left in overtime to give the Wolfpack an 84-83 lead.

Warren said after the game he thought he would make both free throws in overtime, just as he did in regulation. He didn’t.

“We were just very, very lucky,” Williams said.

After Paige’s shot capped off UNC’s 22nd win in the past 24 games in the rivalry, Williams and Gottfried shook hands.

“I told, Mark, ‘I don’t know what to say,’ ” Williams said. “It was a heck of a basketball game if you’re just a fan.”

It was for N.C. State, too, despite being on the wrong end of history.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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