Identifying the problem, or problems in N.C. State’s case on Saturday, is easier than solving them.
The Wolfpack dropped its third straight ACC game with an 84-79 home loss to Miami despite making 56.3 percent of its shots and 61.1 percent of its 3-pointers.
“You look at our numbers across the line offensively, and this is kind of like a broken record, we should be able to win the game,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said.
Given N.C. State (14-10, 3-8 ACC) had the same number of turnovers (11) as the Hurricanes (15-7, 5-5), carelessness wasn’t the issue, either.
The problems are the same ones that put N.C. State in a 3-7 ACC hole before the Hurricanes’ visit.
“We just need more rebounds,” freshman forward Omer Yurtseven said. “We need to be more aggressive on defense. That summarizes it, I guess.”
Pretty simple really but actually fixing the problem this deep into ACC play is easier said than done, if not impossible.
N.C. State, like it did with Syracuse on Wednesday, had Miami down double-digits. The Wolfpack offense was rolling, with guard Dennis Smith Jr. (31 points) and guard Terry Henderson (21).
Both looked like they were interested in paying Miami back for a particularly ugly beating on Dec. 31. That’s how the ACC used to do it. You lost to a team at their place and then you got them back at your place.
That’s what State was on its way to doing, up 42-30 near the end of the first half and 45-36 at the break.
And then Miami did what Syracuse did the other night. The Canes got some open looks and buried them. Suddenly the score was tied at 51 at the 14:39 mark in the second half.
Without a cushion, N.C. State’s offense tightened, and it couldn’t rely on its defense for stops.
Miami senior Davon Reed led the charge with 26 points and seven 3-pointers. Sophomore guard Anthony Lawrence had 12 of his 19 points in the second half and many of his looks, like Reed, were without a Wolfpack defender in front of him.
“They were wide-open shots,” Yurtseven said. “That’s why I said we’ve got to pick up the defense. They’re not a team that can make a shot over your hand but, like any team, they can make open shots.”
All of Miami’s second chances didn’t help N.C. State’s cause, either. The Canes actually finished with more offensive rebounds (17) than N.C. State had defensive rebounds (16).
“We’ve got to come up with a defensive rebound,” Gottfried said.
Rebounding out of a zone can be difficult for any team. N.C. State used more zone on Saturday since Miami entered the game ranked next-to-last in the ACC in 3-pointers made per game (6.48).
The Canes, with Reed’s hot hand, ended up 11-of-21 from behind the line. It was the fourth time in six ACC home games that N.C. State has given up at least 80 points. Not surprisingly, the Wolfpack has lost all four of those games.
“We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to stop some people from scoring the way they’re scoring,” Gottfried said.
This, of course, is not news to the N.C. State players. They know the problem.
“Playing together on the defensive end is costing us games and we have to get better at that,” Henderson said.
The only real solution is more time on the court together. N.C. State will get seven more chances, but it has already wasted its best ones to make something of the season.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio