Ugly loss to Virginia Tech leaves NC State at a crossroads

PNC Arena turns 20 this year.

It might take 120 years to see another college basketball game like the one that was played there between N.C. State and Virginia Tech on Saturday.

Virginia Tech’s 47-24 win over the Wolfpack (yes, 24 points in a full game) was so ugly it set a new standard for ugly. And that building has seen a few ugly moments. Notably, Saturday’s was the first that didn’t involve Karl Hess.

In 2005, Wake Forest guard Chris Paul deliberately punched N.C. State star Julius Hodge in the groin. The officials (Hess was one of them) missed what had happened. Video review wasn’t part of the game so Paul wasn’t called for a foul or ejected.

Of course, it was then Paul at the buzzer, with an odd-angled runner, to hit the game-winner for the Demon Deacons in the 55-53 decision.

Hess factored more prominently in 2012 in a game between N.C. State and Florida State. Hess, unilaterally, decided to eject former N.C. State players Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta from the arena for what amounted to disagreeing with his calls.

Those two episodes were more of a sideshow than the main event. N.C. State’s ineptitude took center stage on Saturday, not that the Hokies were putting on their impersonation of the Golden State Warriors.

“I just thought it was an ugly game,” Virginia Tech forward Ty Outlaw said. “We weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders on offense, either.”

Virginia Tech had an excuse with point guard Justin Robinson injured. N.C. State just had a bunch of misses (45 in all).

The Wolfpack established a new ACC low for field-goal percentage (16.7) and points since the shot clock was adopted (the 1985-86 season).

N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts chalked up the effort to a case of “just missing shots.” He better hope that he’s right because that’s the kind of loss that can send a team into a tailspin.

N.C. State needed that win over Virginia Tech to throw in the bank with the win over Auburn from December. Now N.C. State has to pull off a surprise (or two) just to get through this brutal six-game stretch, which includes stops at North Carolina (Tuesday) and Duke (Feb. 16).

On with the “Only* ACC Power Rankings That Matter:”

1. Duke

Record: 19-2, 7-1 ACC

This week: Boston College (Tuesday), at Virginia (Saturday)

No ACC team has swept the regular season from Virginia since 2012. The Blue Devils get their chance on Saturday.

2. UNC

Record: 17-4, 7-1 ACC

This week: N.C. State (Tuesday), Miami (Saturday)

A pair of “run-it-back” home games for Roy Williams this week. The second time Williams sees an ACC team in a season, he usually wins (now 70-25 including Saturday’s win at Louisville).

3. Virginia

Record: 20-1, 8-1 ACC

This week: Duke (Saturday)

The Wahoos are 53-5 in ACC homes games since the start of the 2012-13 season. Duke is responsible for two of those losses (2015, 2017)

4. Louisville

Record: 16-6, 7-2 ACC

This week: at Virginia Tech (Monday), at Florida State (Saturday)

The Cardinals will be an underdog in five of their next six ACC games.

5. Virginia Tech

Record: 18-3, 7-2 ACC

This week: Louisville (Monday), at Clemson (Saturday)

The Hokies rallied together to pull off one win without Justin Robinson. How many more times can they do that?

6. Syracuse

Record: 16-6, 7-2 ACC

This week: Florida State (Tuesday), Boston College (Saturday)

The Orange are 0-2 against the ACC’s “Tech” teams and 7-0 against the rest.

7. Florida State

Record: 16-5, 4-4 ACC

This week: at Syracuse (Tuesday), Louisville (Saturday)

The Noles have rallied to win three straight. Mfiondu Kabengele (14.9 ppg off the bench in ACC play) is a big reason why.

8. N.C. State

Record: 16-6, 4-5 ACC

This week: at UNC (Tuesday), at Pittsburgh (Saturday)

A crossroads for the Wolfpack after that disaster. Which way will it go from here?

9. Clemson

Record: 13-8, 3-5 ACC

This week: at Georgia Tech (Wednesday), Virginia Tech (Saturday)

The Tigers joined the parade and embarrassed Wake Forest on Sunday. A double dose of the Techs are up next.

10. Pittsburgh

Record: 12-10, 2-7 ACC

This week: at Wake Forest (Tuesday), N.C. State (Saturday)

The Panthers could use a “get-right” game. Checks schedule, yep, that should do it on Tuesday.

11. Georgia Tech

Record: 11-11, 3-6 ACC

This week: Clemson (Wednesday), at Notre Dame(Sunday)

The Jackets have cracked the 55-point mark three times in nine ACC games.

12. Notre Dame

Record: 12-10, 2-7 ACC

This week: at Miami (Wednesday), Georgia Tech (Sunday)

One thing we know for sure about Notre Dame: it is better than Boston College.

13. Boston College

Record: 11-9, 2-6 ACC

This week: at Duke (Tuesday), at Syracuse (Saturday)

There’s only so much Ky Bowman can do alone.

14. Miami

Record: 9-12, 1-8 ACC

This week: Notre Dame (Wednesday), at UNC (Saturday)

The Canes do get another crack at Wake Forest but have to wait until Feb. 26 for it.

15. Wake Forest

Record: 8-13, 1-8 ACC

This week: Pittsburgh (Tuesday)

Good news: only one game on the schedule this week!

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Joe Giglio has worked at The N&O since 1995 and has regularly reported on the ACC since 2005. He grew up in Ringwood, N.J. and graduated from N.C. State.
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