NC State

Slow start offsets frenetic finish for NC State

N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried makes his point with a player during Wednesday night’s game against North Carolina in Raleigh.
N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried makes his point with a player during Wednesday night’s game against North Carolina in Raleigh. rwillett@newsobserver.com

The finish was all everyone wanted to talk about after N.C. State's 81-79 home loss to North Carolina on Wednesday night.

Did you see the tip by Cody Martin at the buzzer that would have forced overtime?

What was up with the game clock freezing at the 1-minute, 20-second mark of the second half while the Tar Heels had the ball?

The end of the game had the fury, but the start had the value for the Wolfpack (12-6, 3-2 ACC). Three days after it toppled Duke on the same floor, N.C. State didn't come out with the same energy against the Tar Heels.

It was not the same emotion the Wolpfack had in the 87-75 win against Duke on Sunday, nor was it the same juice the Wolfpack finished the game with Wednesday.

"I didn't think in the fist half that we had the movement, the quickness," N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. "We just seemed to be going in slow motion in my mind."

N.C. State shot poorly (33.3 percent) and defended poorly (UNC shot 58.3 percent) in the first half. The Wolfpack trailed 32-26 at the half and then allowed UNC to make six of its first eight shots of the second half.

UNC got up by as many as 12 points, 66-54 at the 6:58 mark, before the Wolfpack was able to cut into the margin.

Senior guard Ralston Turner, who spent much of the first half as a spectator because of foul trouble, finished with 20 points, and made five 3-pointers to lead N.C. State's second-half comeback. Turner said N.C. State learned a lesson Wednesday.

"We have to play both halves," Turner said. "We didn't play to our capabilities in the first half and that put us in a hole."

The second half was more of what Gottfried expected. The Wolfpack scored 53 points, the most in any half this season, and shot 51.5 percent. The defensive intensity was better, although there were lapses when the Wolfpack went zone early in the half.

"I thought our second-half effort was amazing; we played hard, we played to win," Gottfried said. "We came up a few plays short."

Turner's four-point play - a made 3-pointer and a free throw - cut UNC's lead to 73-68 with 2:40 left and set the stage for the final frenetic minutes, which did not go off without a glitch.

UNC led 74-71 and had the ball with 1:20 left when the game clock froze. About 15 seconds of game time elapsed before UNC guard Marcus Paige corralled a loose-ball rebound and was tied up for a jump ball.

UNC had the possession arrow and when it inbounded the ball after a timeout, the clock resumed as normal.

With the score still at 74-71, Turner had two chances to tie the game, on two separate trips, with a 3-pointer but missed off the front of the rim.

Twice in the final 4 seconds, UNC's lead got cut to a single point. Down 81-78 after exchanging free throws over the final 32 seconds, N.C. State had one last chance.

N.C. State freshman Abdul-Malik Abu was fouled with 0.2 seconds left by UNC's Isaiah Hicks. Abu made the first free throw and then missed the second on purpose. Martin jumped over UNC forward Kennedy Meeks on the rebound and tipped the ball toward the rim but it missed wide left.

Instead of overtime, UNC went home with its 23rd win in 25 games under coach Roy Williams against N.C. State.

The past two in Raleigh have been by a total of three points, with Paige cementing his legend in the rivalry with 58 points in those two games (including a game-high 23 Wednesday night).

"It was another pretty good basketball game," Gottfried said. "Unfortunately for us we end up on the short end and that's not any fun."

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