RALEIGH — You’re not supposed to let one game beat you twice.
For two days, N.C. State talked about this concept after suffering an emotional loss to North Carolina on Wednesday.
So the Wolfpack saw Saturday’s 85-70 home loss to Miami coming, it just couldn’t do anything about it. Not with Miami, one of the worst scoring teams in the country, channeling LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
Junior guard Rion Brown led five Miami scorers in double figures with 20 points and the Canes (15-14, 6-10 ACC) closed out the game with a 21-5 run to go unbeaten in the Triangle this season.
N.C. State (17-12, 7-9) had a similar emotional letdown following its one-point loss at Syracuse on Feb. 15. The Wolfpack went to Clemson after the Syracuse heartbreaker and got trucked 73-56. Coach Mark Gottfried pointed out the similarities from that situation to this one ever since Wednesday’s 85-84 overtime loss to UNC.
“The last two days that’s all we’ve talked about is getting ourselves back up and ready to go,” Gottfried said. “I thought we were very heavy-legged today. That just can’t happen.”
While N.C. State slogged through the motions on defense, Miami found its offense, previously nonexistent for a group that ranks 347th in the country (out of 351 teams) in scoring.
The Canes bested their season average (60.9) by 25 points. They scored 48 in the second half alone, which is more than they had in a home loss (67-46) to Duke on Jan. 22.
Led by Brown and freshman guard Manu Lecomte (15 points), the Canes shot a blistering 68.2 percent in the second half and 58.7 for the game. They came in last in the ACC and 321st in the country in FG percentage (40.9).
“We were a step slow and couldn’t guard them,” Gottfried said. “It was really a disappointing defensive effort on our part.”
Or as junior guard Desmond Lee succinctly put it: “We didn’t come to play.”
Sophomore T.J. Warren followed up his spectacular performance against UNC with 20 points on Saturday, including 14 in the second half. Warren had three steals after the Pack went to a full-court press in the second half.
Lee had 10 points and made three 3-pointers, and freshman forward Kyle Washington added 13 points but N.C. State just couldn’t stop Miami.
Miami’s Erik Swoope (15 points) hammered home a dunk at 13:31 which gave the Canes a 53-44 lead. Warren led a Wolfpack charge with his defense. His second straight dunk at 6:30 gave N.C. State a 65-54 lead, its first since the early moments of the first half.
It was short-lived, though, as the Canes scored the game’s next 13 points. Another dunk by Swoope, who averages 3.7 points per game, started the carnage and a tough fade-away by Brown at 3:10 signaled the end of State’s chances.
Washington had the best opportunity to interrupt the Miami run, with State down 68-65, but his dunk attempt bounced high off the back rim.
“I’m still thinking about that right now,” Washington said. “There were a few plays out there that we didn’t capitalize on.”
But State’s offense wasn’t the problem. It only scored 56 points in a win at Miami, which has one of the best defenses in the country, on Feb. 8. The Pack’s defense got turned inside out and the energy from Wednesday’s loss to UNC was never recovered.