There was no hiding Mark Gottfried’s frustrations, not during halftime of Wednesday’s 90-83 home loss to Georgia Tech and not during the Wolfpack coach’s post-game press conference.
Gottfried, who finds himself in an unfamiliar position in his fifth season at N.C. State, let his team have it after an extended defensive lapse put the Wolfpack in a 14-point hole at halftime.
“It wasn’t pretty in there,” N.C. State guard Cat Barber said about the locker room at halftime. “(Gottfried) talked about everything and he was hot while he was saying it.”
After the game, N.C. State’s seventh loss in eight ACC games, the normally positive Gottfried did not hold back in his review of what went wrong in the first half.
“In the first half, we did not have the energy, enthusiasm that we have had every night,” Gottfried said. “This team has not played like that. That was disappointing.”
Gottfried was just getting warmed up.
“We lacked the zip, the quickness, all of it,” the coach said. “You get to a point where with young people and you have to make a decision. You can accept your fate or you can do something to change it.”
For the first time in Gottfried’s tenure, N.C. State’s fate seems to be outside the NCAA tournament. At 11-10 overall, the Wolfpack will need to rally – and quickly – to be contention for the NIT.
There were 78 rebounds tonight. Seventy-eight. BeeJay Anya got three of them. Lennard Freeman got three of them.
NC State coach Mark Gottfried
This season has been the exception in Gottfried’s stint at N.C. State. He took over a program in April 2011 that had missed the NCAA tournament for five straight years and had been to the Sweet 16 twice in the previous 25 years.
Each of Gottfried’s first four teams have made the NCAA tournament, and two, his first in 2012 and last year’s group, made the Sweet 16.
Three of those teams found their rhythm deep into the ACC schedule and played their way into the NCAA field.
Gottfried has excelled at pushing the right buttons and making the right lineup changes to spur the late-season progress.
With guard Terry Henderson’s injury, out since the opening minutes of the season with a foot injury, there’s a limit to the number of moves Gottfried can make with this team. There is no such limit on his frustration, which took an outward turn Wednesday after he had been publicly saying for weeks he didn’t have a bad team.
Georgia Tech, while improved this season from the team that went 2-14 in the ACC last year, entered the game with one ACC win.
The Yellow Jackets took control of the game with a 16-4 run in the final 5 minutes of the first half. N.C. State’s indifference, especially compared with recent efforts at North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Duke, stood out as Georgia Tech paraded to the rim and did whatever it wanted on offense.
Gottfried wasn’t the only one on the N.C. State side to notice the shortage of intensity.
“We didn’t come out with a good enough effort,” sophomore forward Abdul-Malik Abu said.
The lack of resolve is what particularly irked Gottfried at the half.
“If I’m in a fight down in the back alley, you might whip me,” Gottfried said. “Damn it, you’re going to be tired at the end of it. You ain’t going to whip me easy. This team has to figure that out.”
N.C. State did whittle Georgia Tech’s double-digit lead down to 54-53 with 11:18 left in the second half, but a five-point possession by the Yellow Jackets cracked the game back open.
N.C. State was able to score 50 points in the second half, which was aided by a 6-of-9 effort from the 3-point line, but the Wolfpack missed eight straight field goals during a critical 15-1 run by Georgia Tech.
Barber, who scored a game-high 36 points and played all 40 minutes despite a sore knee, said N.C. State’s problems are small but they are adding up to big losses. The Wolfpack would have to win nine of its last 10 ACC games to match last year’s 10-8 conference record.
“It’s not like somebody is just busting us one-on-one,” Barber said. “It’s just little stuff with the rotation and the close-out and help.”
Barber also mentioned rebounding, and Georgia Tech had a 43 to 35 edge on Wednesday. The rebounding edge and a 20-point effort by Georgia Tech forward Nick Jacobs, who came into the game averaging 10.7 points per game, did not go unnoticed by Gottfried.
“We’ve got to rebound the ball better,” Gottfried said. “You’ve got to go get the ball. There were 78 rebounds tonight. Seventy-eight. BeeJay Anya got three of them. Lennard Freeman got three of them. Seventy-eight to get. It is what is; numbers don’t lie.”
The numbers don’t paint a pretty picture for N.C. State right now.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio