Still, Smith has yet to return, though coaches thought he may have played limited minutes on Thursday. Smith practiced with the team earlier in the week, but soreness in his knee prevented him from finishing practice.
N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said the plan was for the forward to return on Thursday before the game against Arizona on Sunday.
"I was hoping that he was going to be ready to get some minutes [Thursday]," Lowe said. "I was optimistic early, now I don’t know. It’s a little disappointing because we thought we were going to have him back. I’m sure he’s frustrated with it as well."
It is impossible to argue that Smith’s absence has not had a negative impact on the Wolfpack’s offensive efficiency – or should I say lack thereof – to this point in the season.
To that point, The ACC Sports Journal profiled NC State’s scoring droughts in this article.
While the Wolfpack is improved in the open court and often pulls the trigger in half-court sets more quickly than in the past, it has struggled against its most difficult foes. As for those droughts, they’ve returned in an ugly and most untimely manner.
An affliction that predates Lowe’s arrival in 2006, lengthy scoreless periods are still a problem for the program. Chalk it up to youth and not having power forward Tracy Smith for most of the early games, but this year’s gulfs had the same look and feel of previous struggles, perhaps indicating that the problem may be more difficult to fix than it appears on the surface.
The Pack actually led Georgetown 44-42 with 16:30 remaining in a tournament in Charleston, S.C., but then failed to score for nearly five minutes while the Hoyas ran off 15 consecutive points. In all, Georgetown’s 40-19 run spanned almost the rest of the game, and the 82-67 loss should have served as a lesson for the Wolfpack.
Two weeks later, State saw Wisconsin go on a 32-10 run to take a 44-21 halftime lead in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. State failed to score over the final 6:40 of the first half and eventually lost by 39.
A few days later, the Wolfpack led at Syracuse 53-47 with 11:46 left but lost 65-59. State scored three points over the final 9:46, including being blanked over the final 5:20.
Poor shot selection and turnovers plagued NCSU in each of those situations, and even with the improved overall effort and performance at Syracuse, that old problem resurfacing was too much to overcome.