Lethargic. Lackadaisical. Indifferent. Listless. And for some, apathetic even. Those words may be the best ones to use when describing the Wolfpack’s game in Littlejohn Coliseum tonight, where the Wolfpack gave up a one-point halftime lead to lose 73-56 to Clemson.
That scant one point lead was the result of the 7-8 minutes of effort the team collectively gave tonight after sporting Clemson a seven-point margin in the first minutes of a game that State simply had to have if it was going to have a legitimate case for the NCAA Tournament Committee. “We had such a bad start,” NC State Head Coach Mark Gottfried said afterwards. “We had good second half of the first half that last eight or 10 minutes. And what we really needed was a great start to the second half, and we didn’t. We came out flat again.”
Indeed. It took the Wolfpack almost four minutes to get its first second-half points, but Clemson had already scored nine and would not need to look in its rear-view mirror the rest of the way. Time after time, State players would mishandle the ball, have their shots blocked or simply miss open looks that they’d normally make with regularity. —
Perhaps it was losing to Syracuse twice. After losing a hotly contested battle against the country’s top college team, State had to travel to play another road game, this time in Clemson in a gym that’s not been a kind place to them in the past. To earn a victory, State would need to be firing on all cylinders and it would need to play cohesive forty-minute basketball. Neither happened. Point guard Tyler Lewis thought as much in his post-game remarks when he said “I felt like we had a hangover today.”
That hangover may hurt for a very long time: State is now 16-10, 6-7 in the ACC and in the position of needing to go on an extended run both to end the regular season and in the first days of the ACC Tournament to have even a marginal chance of playing in the dance. Given that inconsistency is the tendency of the 2013-14 edition of NC State basketball, anything can happen, but more than likely the roller coaster ride that is this young team’s journey will continue and the trip will end somewhere in the NIT while other teams with lesser athletic talent play for the national title.