NC State’s Kevin Keatts on historic loss to Virginia Tech: ‘I don’t know if I have ever been part of a game where none of our guys played well’
N.C. State managed to score 14 points and shoot 19.4 percent in the first half against Virginia Tech on Saturday.
And then it got worse.
No. 23 N.C. State somehow figured out how to turn back the clock in the wrong direction in a 47-24 loss to No. 12 Virginia Tech. The last time N.C. State (16-6, 4-5 ACC) was held to that type of scoring performance, there was no shot clock or 3-point line.
It was the fewest points scored by an N.C. State team since a 12-10 win over Duke in the 1968 ACC tournament and the fewest in a loss since a 39-23 decision to Seymour Johnson (the Air Force base) during the 1944-45 season.
It set a new scoring mark for futility by an ACC team in the shot-clock era, pushing Georgia Tech (28 points in a loss to Virginia in 2015) out of the unwelcomed spot in history. Given the stalling tactics of the pre-shot clock era, you can think of it this way: it’s worst scoring performance by an ACC team when it was actually trying to score.
“I can’t say that I’ve seen this before,” N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said.
Everyone else at PNC Arena was equally flummoxed, although not Virginia Tech (18-3, 7-2) coach Buzz Williams. The Hokies shot a blistering 35.6 percent (16 of 45) and managed to pick a road ACC win without its best player. Guard Justin Robinson, who had 35 points in a key home win over Syracuse last Saturday, watched the game with his left foot in a walking boot.
“I thought it was beautiful,” Williams said. “I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder but respectfully, we shot double what they did.”
The Hokies didn’t need Robinson. Their defense was effective, although not altogether suffocating.
“Give those guys credit, I think they did a good job but we missed a lot of open shots that I thought we should have made,” Keatts said.
N.C. State finished 9 of 54 from the floor and 2 of 28 from the 3-point line. The 16.7 field-goal percentage is the worst in ACC history.
“There’s a first time for everything,” N.C. State guard C.J. Bryce said. “I hate that it had to happen but all we can do as a team is learn from it.”
Guard Braxton Beverly epitomized the effort for the Wolfpack with a 0-for-12 shooting performance. Two games removed from playing the hero in N.C. State’s dramatic win over Clemson, he missed all nine of his 3-point attempts. N.C. State was 1 of 14 from the 3-point line in the first half while it somehow managed to stay only six points back at the break.
Bryce, who led N.C. State with seven points, made a jump shot at 18:06 and then the Wolfpack didn’t score again until a layup by Jericole Hellems at 9:04. Amazingly, Virginia Tech was only up 5-4 at that point after Hellems’ layup and it was 20-14 at the half.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, the second half happened. Forward Kerry Blackshear (game-high 13 points and 13 rebounds) had nine quick points. His layup at 14:04 pushed Virginia Tech’s lead to 33-19.
N.C. State was not competitive the rest of the game yet Keatts said he did not think effort was a problem.
“I wouldn’t say effort,” Keatts said. “I just say we missed shots. I thought our guys played extremely hard. I thought we missed shots.”
The players didn’t agree, not after the Hokies won the second half by a 17-point margin. N.C. State has played nine ACC games this season and has trailed in the second half by double-digits in six of those games. This was the first time N.C. State didn’t claw its way back to even in those games.
“I feel like we did a really bad job at letting (the missed shots) affect our game tonight,” Bryce said. “Our defense was pretty good in the first half but we let those shots affect us in the second half.”
And next up, N.C. State has to figure out how to bounce back. It has a trip to North Carolina on Tuesday.
“As hard as it is and as frustrating as this loss is, we have to be able to move on from it,” forward Wyatt Walker said.
Moving on will be easier than history forgetting this loss. That will take more time, like in the year 2070 if the past is precedent.