N.C. State fought again, and was praised by coach Mark Gottfried for the effort, but the result Sunday at Wake Forest was the same as the first two ACC games.
Senior forward Devin Thomas scored 20 points and had 11 rebounds to lead the Deacons to a 77-74 win against N.C. State.
It was the first ACC win for Wake Forest (10-5, 1-2 ACC) and fourth straight home win over the Wolfpack (10-6, 0-3).
Junior guard Cat Barber scored a game-high 26 for N.C. State but the Wolfpack fell to 0-3 in conference play for the first time since 2006-07 season.
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It was the third ACC loss by five points or less and second straight that featured a spirited stretch in the second half.
But you are what your record says you are and winless in the ACC is not any fun, Gottfried said.
“I don’t think anybody wants to be 0-3,” Gottfried said. “I think it’s different if you’re 0-3 and you’re just not very good at all. I’ve seen bad teams before, we’re not a bad team.
“We’re a good team that’s getting better. We just don’t have a lot to show for it yet in the league.”
Former N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe, Gottfried’s predecessor, would have enjoyed the second half between the old ACC rivals. As Lowe was apt to say, “Basketball is a game of runs.”
That it was for the final 20 minutes at Joel Coliseum with Wake opening the half with a 13-0 run, followed by an 18-2 run by N.C. State only to be answered by a decisive 13-3 run by Wake Forest.
N.C. State fell behind 42-28 at 14 minutes 59 seconds in the second half after the Deacons scored the first 13 points of the half.
The Wolfpack scored 18 of the next 20 points and the run was notable because the first 15 points came from sources other than Barber, who made a season-best four 3-pointers.
Barber’s 3 at 11:34 gave N.C. State a 46-44 advantage. The run came mostly while Thomas was on the bench and N.C. State had a smaller lineup.
“We exerted a lot of energy at the end of that run,” Gottfried said.
The Deacs answered with 13 of the game’s next 16 points with Dinos Mitoglou (15 points, nine rebounds) hitting one of his three 3-pointers during the stretch and Codi Miller-McIntyre added four of his 11 points. Miller-McIntyre’s layup at 7:58 gave Wake a 57-49 lead.
N.C. State fell behind by as many as 11 in the final 5 minutes but got as close as three, 75-72 after a 3 by Maverick Rowan with 8 seconds left.
The Wolfpack fouled Bryan Crawford (17 points, six assists) on the ensuing inbounds pass and the freshman guard made both free throws to ice the game.
Wake finished 19 of 28 from the foul line, compared to 6 of 10 for N.C. State.
N.C. State left Winston-Salem with another loss and an 0-3 ACC record. The first was a five-point loss in overtime at Virginia Tech, the second was a five-point home loss to Louisville and Sunday was by three points.
The Wolfpack left without a win but not with its heads down, sophomore Caleb Martin said.
“We all know we’re not that far off,” Martin said. “You see spurts of what we can do.”
The question now is can N.C. State turn the spurts into a complete effort?