N.C. State can’t quite figure out a way to win a road game.
There wasn’t much mystery to Wednesday’s 74-66 loss at Boston College to freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr.
“We have to play better defensively,” Smith said.
Defense has been a problem for this Wolfpack team, especially on the road where it has given up 25.5 more points per game (87.5) than at home (62.0).
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N.C. State (12-5, 1-3 ACC) couldn’t contain Boston College guards Jerome Robinson (24 points) and Ky Bowman (19 points). The Wolfpack knew going into the game slowing the Boston College guards would be key, but it couldn’t slow the production of the two from North Carolina.
“To me out there it just felt like another Raleigh pickup game, kinda, for a little bit,” said Robinson, who went to Broughton.
Bowman (6-of-10) and Robinson (9-of-17) made better than 55 percent of their field goals and were a combined 9-of-10 from the foul line. The Wolfpack did a better job on guard A.J. Turner, who was 2-of-10 from the floor for 10 points.
“The plan was to lock up their three guards, and we knew that they were going to a lot of ball-screen action, and we were supposed to guard it a certain way,” Smith said. “We didn’t do that, and we lost.”
It was the second loss in as many games and fourth on the road this season. Smith led the Wolfpack with 15 points but missed a key 2-minute stretch after getting an inadvertent elbow in the face from Robinson at 8:25 in the second half.
N.C. State was down 57-56 when Smith, who fouled Robinson on the play, went to the bench. The Eagles were up 61-56 when Smith came back at 6:47.
Smith agreed with coach Mark Gottfried that N.C. State did show progress in the loss, particularly compared to Sunday’s 51-point loss at North Carolina.
“Slow progress is better than no progress,” Smith said.
Smith and guard Terry Henderson (14 points) carried the scoring load for the Wolfpack. Sophomore wing Maverick Rowan started for the first time since the season-opener and had eight points in 26 minutes while redshirt sophomore guard Torin Dorn, who Rowan replaced in the starting lineup, had a season-low two points in 11 minutes.
Dorn only played 2 minutes in the second half, while freshman guard Markell Johnson had five points and four assists in 26 minutes.
N.C. State was unable to exploit a smaller BC lineup with its size. Junior forward Abdul-Malik Abu had eight points and 11 rebounds but was 4-of-10 from the floor.
Freshman forward Omer Yurtseven made 2 of 8 shots and had four points and two rebounds in 16 minutes.
“We are putting too much pressure on our perimeter players to score too many points,” Gottfried said.
Things didn’t get much better for the Wolfpack after the game. There were some issues with the team charter plane in Boston on Wednesday night, and the team didn’t get back home until Thursday afternoon.
The Wolfpack will try to get its season back on track on Sunday with a visit from Georgia Tech. The next three games (Pittsburgh on Jan. 17 and Wake Forest on Jan. 21) are at home.
“We still have a lot of time left, there’s no time to put your head down and complain,” Abu said. “We just have to keep going.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio