Former N.C. State guard Anthony “Cat” Barber still hopes the Wolfpack can salvage a season that has taken a nose dive after its 84-82 upset win over Duke last month.
Barber was at PNC Arena Wednesday night for N.C. State’s 97-73 loss to No. 10 North Carolina. The Wolfpack lost its first game against the Tar Heels, 107-56, on Jan. 8.
“The nonconference games are obviously going to be easy and the ACC play is going to be hard,” Barber said about the Wolfpack. “They’re a good team, they got talent. They just got to figure it out.”
The Wolfpack’s chances looked promising at the start of the season, when it was picked to finish sixth in the loaded ACC.
But after a 104-78 blowout home win over then-No. 21 Virginia Tech on Jan. 4, the Wolfpack (14-13, 3-11 ACC) has lost 10 of its last 12 games. A few of those games were close, including home losses to Wake Forest on Jan. 21 (93-88), Syracuse on Feb. 1 (100-93 in OT) and Miami on Feb. 4 (84-79).
“These games they are capable of winning,” Barber said. “They just got to put it together.”
And some of those losses, however, haven’t been so close, and coach Mark Gottfried, who was fired on Thursday, had come under fire in recent weeks.
In addition to its 51-point loss at UNC, the Wolfpack lost at Florida State, 95-71, on Feb. 8 and at Wake Forest, 88-58, on Feb. 11.
On Wednesday, after the loss to UNC, Gottfried took responsibility for his team’s performance at his postgame news conference.
“That’s part of the turf as a head coach,” Gottfried said.
With only four games left in the regular season, it is likely N.C. State will miss the NCAA tournament for the second straight season.
Barber was the team’s leading scorer last season, when he averaged 23.5 points and 4.5 assists per game. He declared for the NBA draft following his junior season but went undrafted. He now plays in the NBA’s Developmental League for the Greensboro Swarm, the Charlotte Hornets affiliate. On Tuesday, he scored 38 points.
Barber stood outside the locker room after the game Wednesday. He said he planned to encourage the players to stay together and fight.
He remained optimistic about the rest of the season and said he hopes the Wolfpack can finish strong.
“I think so,” he said. “I hope so, but the way the season is going right now, they just got to stay together fight for one another.”