The optimist would suggest that N.C. State did not take a backward step against the No. 22 team in the nation.
The pessimist would counter that the Wolfpack fought above its weight class.
Both viewpoints are correct.
N.C. State was game against West Virginia but dropped an 83-69 decision in the second game of the Gotham Classic Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
"We played like a young team," Mark Gottfried said.
Trevor Lacey tied for the game-high scoring with 24. Anthony Barber finished with 16.
West Virginia (10-1) had three players finish in double figure scoring. Juwan Staten had 24 points, while Devin Williams and Jaysean Paige finished with 16 and 11.
The Wolfpack will leave New York City lamenting ball security and free throw shooting, specifically their inability to protect the ball and make shots from the stripe. NC State committed 23 turnovers, 16 in the first half. The amount of turnovers was jarring, moreso when factoring that the Wolfpack entered the game ranked 22nd in the nation with a 15.2 turnover percentage.
"I thought in the first half of the game, their pressure bothered us" Gottfried said. "We played like a young team and they looked like sharks in the water.
"I thought their defense sped us up. We didn't play with a lot of poise and I thought that was all to their credit."
NC State only made 21-of-35 from the line.
The turnovers and poor free throw shooting overshadowed what the Wolfpack did accomplish, in this case a brilliant shooting performance from the field. N.C. State made 8-of-14 from 3, and 20-of-36 overall.
The Wolfpack opened the second half with a 6-0 run in the first 2:35 to cut West Virginia's led to 41-38, and when Lacey drilled a right-wing 3 1:16 later it drew NC State within 1, 44-43.
Juwan Staten and Jaysean Paige sandwiched baskets around an Anthony Barber turnover in a 14 second span to push West Virginia's lead to 48-43.
Lacey cut the deficit to 52-51 with a left-wing 3 with 11:14 remaining. His lay-in 42 seconds later made it 54-53.
But every time it appeared as if the Wolfpack was on the verge of tying the game or taking the lead, they would miss free throws or commit a turnover. NC State missed 10 free throws and turned the ball over seven times in the second half.
West Virginia only turned the ball over 13 times total, and made 9-of-13 from the line in the second half.
Gottfried also laid blame for the loss at the feet of his frontcourt. The Wolfpack was out-rebounded 28-26, with forwards BeeJay Anya, Kyle Washington, Caleb Martin and Abdul Malik-Abu combining to grab just 10 boards. Anya and guard Ralston Turner tied for the team lead with four rebounds apiece.
"I have challenged our guys," Gottfried said. "I have talked to them. I've tried my best. At some point we may look at using four guards. We have to get more production, it's just that simple.”