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NC State’s effort, heart questioned after latest blowout loss

NC State's Dorn: We just stopped competing

VIDEO: NC State's Torin Dorn talks after the Wolfpack's loss to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, NC, Sat. Feb. 11, 2017.
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VIDEO: NC State's Torin Dorn talks after the Wolfpack's loss to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, NC, Sat. Feb. 11, 2017.

First there was North Carolina, then Louisville and now Wake Forest.

N.C. State keeps making the same mistakes and keeps finding itself on the wrong end of a blowout, this time 88-58 in Winston-Salem on Saturday afternoon.

“It’s becoming a broken record now,” freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. said.

The Wolfpack (14-12, 3-10 ACC) finds itself in an endless loop of losses and questions about its defense and effort.

VIDEO: NC State's Dennis Smith, Jr talks after the Wolfpack's loss to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, NC, Sat. Feb. 11, 2017.

The Demon Deacons (15-10, 6-7) added their name to the remix of lopsided losses with their fifth straight home win over the Wolfpack and the largest home win in the series’ long history. The teams first met during the 1910-11 season and played for the first time with Wake Forest as the home team during the 1915-16 season.

That’s a lot of ground to cover, but this N.C. State team has a knack for hitting new lows. It started with a 51-point loss at UNC on Jan. 8 and continued with a 25-point loss at Louisville on Jan. 29.

With Saturday’s loss in the books, the Wolfpack has dropped three ACC games by at least 25 points for the first time since the 1993-94 season.

Smith, who finished with a team-high 17 points, makes no bones about the problem.

“I mean, it’s effort,” Smith said. “We’ve got to have some heart. That’s the main thing.”

There was a shortage of heart and effort, particularly in the first half. Wake Forest forward John Collins, who finished with a game-high 23 points, scored on three uncontested baskets to start the game and set a tone for the rout to come.

“We knew if we got up early on them, they (were) going to quit,” Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods said. “If we kept the pressure on them it wasn’t going to be the same.”

N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried didn’t agree with Woods’ assessment.

VIDEO: NC State head basketball coach Mark Gottfried talks after the Wolfpack's loss to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, NC, Sat. Feb. 11, 2017.

“We didn’t lay down,” Gottfried said.

That might be open for interpretation as the season continues to spiral into the abyss. Sophomore Torin Dorn scored 14 points and had 11 rebounds, but his effort, particularly in the second half, was conspicuous.

The lack of urgency was particularly surprising given N.C. State had lost the previous four games since an 84-82 win at Duke on Jan. 23. In an alternate universe, N.C. State might have taken some confidence from Duke’s win over UNC on that same floor on Thursday night.

Instead, Wake started fast and barely let up in building a 20-point halftime lead and then stretching it out to 33 by the midway point in the second half.

“We need to play with more of a sense of urgency, like this is life or death,” Dorn said. “I feel like we play relaxed at times. We have to bring that intensity on every possession, not just sometimes.”

Given the historic valleys of this season, the only hope N.C. State has — with five games left in the season — is that this finally is as bad as it gets.

“When you’re down, the only thing you can do is fight,” Dorn said. “There’s nowhere to go now but up.”

The last five games will require more effort, and heart, than Saturday’s latest debacle.

“If you’ve got heart, then you can play with anybody,” Smith said. “You don’t even have to have a skill set to have heart. If you go out and compete as hard as you can, you always give yourself a chance.”

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

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