Wolfpack starting guard Trevor Lacey went through the list of reasons N.C. State lost at Boston College on Saturday.
The Eagles shot well and N.C. State didn’t. The Wolfpack also struggled to rebound against a smaller Eagles lineup.
After going through the list, Lacey thought about it, shook his head, and in a reassuring moment, said: “We won’t play like that again.”
The Wolfpack (17-12, 8-8 ACC) can’t afford to, especially not Tuesday night at Clemson, if it wants to make the NCAA tournament.
N.C. State has lost once to the Tigers (16-12, 8-8), who have their own tournament aspirations.
Clemson knocked off the Wolfpack in Raleigh, 68-57, on Jan. 28. N.C. State trailed by 23 points and shot a season-low 28.6 percent.
N.C. State’s next-worst shooting performance was Saturday at Boston College (32.8 percent).
“We didn’t defend them as well as we could have,” Lacey said. “We didn’t help ourselves on the offensive end, either.”
N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried was quick to credit Clemson’s defense for the Wolfpack’s problems in the first meeting.
“They’re as good defensively as anybody in our league,” Gottfried said. “They’re physical and well-schooled in how they want to guard people.”
Defense and rebounding were N.C. State’s biggest problems against Boston College. The Eagles made 56.8 percent of their shots, the second-best performance against the Wolfpack this season (Wake Forest shot 56.9 percent in an 88-84 win in Winston-Salem on Feb. 3).
“That was probably the most frustrating part; we couldn’t guard them,” Gottfried said.
Boston College, with only one true forward its lineup, outrebounded N.C. State 19-10 in the first half in building a 43-26 halftime lead. N.C. State finished with a 37-35 advantage on the boards, but it was too late to dig out of the hole it created.
N.C. State has had some difficult first-half performances this season, none more so than against Clemson. The Tigers led 36-16 at the break in the first meeting.
Clemson also has beaten N.C. State in five of the past six games at Littlejohn Coliseum.
The biggest factor working against the Tigers and a spot in the NCAA tournament is their strength of schedule. Their nonconference schedule rank is No. 194, according to CBS Sports.
But the Tigers have six wins against top 100 teams in the Ratings Percentage Index, including a home win against Arkansas (No. 18 in the RPI). Plus, games with the Wolfpack and at Notre Dame on Saturday give them a chance to build their resume.
After the way N.C. State lost Saturday, Lacey said it’s more important for the Wolfpack to play better than to focus on its postseason fate.
“We have to keep moving forward,” Lacey said.
N.C. State at Clemson
When/where: 9 p.m., Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, S.C.
TV/Radio: Fox Sports Carolinas, 101.5-WRAL
Projected starting lineups
N.C. State (17-12, 8-8 ACC)
G Cat Barber 11.8 ppg, 3.7 apg
G Trevor Lacey 16.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg
G Ralston Turner 12.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg
F Lennard Freeman 3.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg
F Abdul-Malik Abu 5.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg
Clemson (16-12, 8-8)
G Rod Hall 8.8 ppg, 3.5 apg
G Damarcus Harrison 8.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg
F Donte Grantham 9.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg
F Jaron Blossomgame 13.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg
F Landry Nnoko 7.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg
Clemson coach Brad Brownell is like another version of former Maryland coach Gary Williams; he doesn’t need a ton of talent to beat you. The Tigers play hard, especially on defense, and it will be incumbent upon N.C. State to match their intensity. Given how poorly N.C. State played at Boston College, this game is almost more a matter of pride than NCAA tournament value. Joe Giglio