State Now

NC State needs to be ready to play defense against Va. Tech

There’s a valuable lesson N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried hopes his team learns from its lopsided loss in the ACC opener: Be ready or else.

“You come out with your cool jacket on, you’re going to get your (behind) kicked,” Gottfried said. “That’s just the bottom line in this conference.”

The Wolfpack (11-3, 0-1 ACC) was too cool for defense in an 81-63 loss at Miami this past Saturday. With No. 21 Virginia Tech (12-1, 1-0) coming to PNC Arena on Wednesday night (9 p.m., WRAL), N.C. State needs to leave its “cool jacket” in the closet and put on its work boots.

The Hokies, coming off an impressive 89-75 home win over Duke on Saturday, will add to N.C. State’s misery if the Wolfpack can’t learn from its mistakes.

Those mistakes at Miami included not running the offense, losing the primary shooter on defense and not blocking out on free throws.

“A mistake here, mistake there and a mistake there and now you’re in a hole,” Gottfried said. “Those things add up quick in this conference.”

Though N.C. State has a talented roster, one of the better ones in a deep ACC, it is short on experience and knowledge.

“We have a lot of inexperienced players who need to learn how to win in this league,” Gottfried said.

The sixth-year coach noted his rotation at Miami included four freshmen, a transfer from Charlotte and a player who missed all but 7 minutes of last season with an injury.

“So there’s a process, too,” Gottfried said. “I have to understand that as a coach. I don’t really care if anybody else does, or not, but I need to.”

The biggest problem against the Hurricanes was a lack of defensive intensity. Miami guards Ja’Quan Newton and Davon Reed had their way with the Wolfpack on Saturday. N.C. State lost Reed, the Canes’ primary 3-point shooter, on a couple of first-half sets and he scored 20 points. Newton, who had 21 points, was able to get the best of N.C. State freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

The problem isn’t a “will to,” Gottfried said, but a “how to.”

“You better learn how to play at this level,” Gottfried said.

Senior guard Terry Henderson, in his first career ACC game, said the Wolfpack showed some signs in spurts against Miami but did not have a complete effort.

“We have to learn how to compete for 40 minutes,” Henderson said.

Part of learning is also understanding it was only one game. League favorites Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Louisville all have a league loss already. The ACC, Henderson said, is as good as it has been in a long time.

“You can’t panic,” Henderson said. “You’ve got to keep one game going and move onto the next one.”

As he was after a disappointing 88-74 loss at Illinois earlier this season, Gottfried remains optimistic his players will improve and figure out some of its problems, particularly on defense.

“I know where we are and I know where we need to get to,” Gottfried said.

Another “too cool” effort against the Hokies, metaphorical jacket or not, will leave the Wolfpack in an 0-2 ACC hole.

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

Virginia Tech at N.C. State

When: 9 p.m. Wednesday

Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh

TV/radio: WRAL, 101.5-WRAL