That did NOT go as planned as NC State dropped our first season opener on the hard wood since (*gulp*) LES ROBINSON lost to Weber State to start the 1993 season.
* Starting guard, Terry Henderson, was injured in the first half.
* State decided that defense was not an important part of the game, allowing the Tribe to shoot almost 53% for the game.
* Unlike in years past, State doesn’t appear to have a ‘go to’ scoring option at the guard position who can create points off the dribble
William & Mary shocks NC State, 85-68. Tribe shot 51.7% from floor, 40.9% from 3 & 73.7% FTs. NC State just 38%, 27.3% & 57.1%
— The Wolfpacker (@TheWolfpacker) November 14, 2015
But, let’s don’t excessively panic quite yet.
Power 5 opening night losers in CBB: Wisconsin, Illinois, N.C. State, Georgia, UCLA, Texas, Colorado, Arizona State.
— rickbozich (@rickbozich) November 14, 2015
Sky is not falling yet for anyone. Early losses happen every year to many teams that end up fine. https://t.co/Zvi2dEXXDh
— statefansnation (@statefansnation) November 14, 2015
What had been a feel-good week for N.C. State basketball and Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried took an unexpected turn Friday.
The Pack, playing its season opener at PNC Arena, was thumped 85-68 by William & Mary in a game the poised, experienced Tribe led nearly start to finish.
The Wolfpack celebrated the signing Wednesday of Dennis Smith of Fayetteville, one of the nation’s best point guards. On Friday, N.C. State announced Gottfried had been awarded a contract extension through 2020.
The Tribe, the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season winner last season, ended those good-time feelings with an easy victory. William & Mary bolted to a 23-5 lead in the first six minutes and was never seriously threatened by the Pack, which has been to the NCAA Tournament each of the four seasons under Gottfried and reached the NCAA round of 16 last season.
“We’re disappointed and I think we learned tonight we’ve got a long way to go,” Gottfried said. “What we have to understand is the Sweet 16 run is a year in the past and in the rearview mirror. We better figure out with this team how it needs to play and how we’re going to get better, and we need to do it quickly.”
[Video: NC State coach Mark Gottfried’s comments after the loss to W&M]
Sophomore Caleb Martin had a career-high 21 points for the Pack, while sophomore Abdul-Malik Abu had 17 and freshman Maverick Rowan had 16 in his first college game. But junior point guard Cat Barber struggled, forcing shots and making some bad decisions, finishing with 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting from the field.
IN THE BEGINNING I COULDN’T HIT MY SHOT. MY TEAM KEPT TELLING ME TO SHOOT BUT I COULDN’T HIT, SO I TRIED TO DO SOMETHING ELSE — PASS THE BALL, GET TO THE BUCKET.
N.C. State’s Cat Barber
Adding to the agony for the Pack was a right ankle injury to junior guard Terry Henderson. The transfer from West Virginia played just seven minutes before falling in the lane under the N.C. State basket.
Gottfried said Henderson was X-rayed at PNC Arena, then taken to a hospital for further X-rays. He had no other update in his condition.
Daniel Dixon had 19 points and Omar Prewitt 17 for the Tribe, which shot 51.7 percent from the field with its motion offense while limiting the Pack to 38 percent — 6-for-22 on 3’s — with a blend of man-to-man and a point zone.
“We would cut the lead down a little bit but couldn’t get enough stops in a row,” Martin said.
The Pack began the new season with an airball by Abu and the first half was mostly frustrating for N.C. State as the Tribe built a 51-35 lead, ending the period with a layup by center Sean Sheldon at the buzzer.
“That’s a veteran team that knew what they wanted to run and they ran their stuff,” Barber said. “They were on.”
William & Mary knocked down seven of 13 shots from three-point range in the first half. The Tribe used a 13-0 spurt to build the lead to 23-5 before Barber ended the run with a short jumper, hurting the Pack with backdoor cuts and screens that set up open looks.
“The first half we just settled for too many jump shots,” Barber said. “In the beginning I couldn’t hit my shot. My team kept telling me to shoot but I couldn’t hit, so I tried to do something else — pass the ball, get to the bucket.”
Barber missed a 3-pointer that would have pulled the Pack within 10 with seven minutes left in regulation. Jack Whitman followed with a dunk for the Tribe and William & Mary was on its way to beating the Pack for the first time since 1952 and its first in Raleigh since 1950.
“Tonight you saw a very experienced, well-oiled machine playing against a very inexperienced team that didn’t handle the adversity really well,” Gottfried said. “They jumped out, led 23-5, making every shot and I thought we became very hurried … and not trusting our offense.
“We were trying to make a 10-point shot every trip, trying to get it all back. We became rushed and dug ourselves a deeper hole. We need to learn to have some poise … and respond better. Having poise, executing our offense, making the adjustment defensively. Those are the things we have to learn to do.”
In a matter of minutes, the PNC Arena scoreboard went from showing highlights of N.C. State’s Sweet 16 run in March to revealing just how far removed the Wolfpack is from that accomplishment.
N.C. State opened the season Friday night with an 85-68 loss to William & Mary, an experienced, perimeter-oriented team picked to finish fourth in the CAA.
Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried is accustomed to taking an overhauled roster, persevering through some growing pains and leading that group to the NCAA tournament.
After one game in a season that will last at least four months, this challenge looks more daunting. To be truthful, it became evident by the second timeout.
Before the feel-good images from N.C. State’s pregame hype video could even be forgotten, the Wolfpack trailed 27-7. A sobering reality was present in the lopsided result.
Maybe Gottfried was right. Maybe N.C. State should have been picked 12th, not eighth, in the ACC’s preseason poll.
“I think we learned tonight that we have a long way to go,” Gottfried said. “The first thing we have to understand is the Sweet 16 run is a year in the past. It’s in the rear-view mirror. We better figure out with this team how it needs to play and how we’re going to get better, and we better learn how to do it quickly.”
On the same day that Gottfried received a contract extension through 2020 with a deal that raises his annual compensation from $2.06 million to $2.48 million and includes notable bonuses for postseason achievement, the Wolfpack proved again that he can earn his keep by successfully rebounding from adversity.
By the time N.C. State had anything positive from which to build Friday, be it Caleb Martin’s career-high 21 points or freshman reserve Maverick Rowan’s 16 points in place of injured starter Terry Henderson, the negatives had established a foundation for an ugly opening act.
William & Mary, which ranked 23rd nationally in 3-point reliance and accuracy last season, hit outside shot after outside shot – when it wasn’t executing Princeton-style backdoor cuts. The Wolfpack tried to trade haymakers and make one-on-one plays, but it missed outside shot after outside shot.
N.C. State finally settled down and post player Abdul-Malik Abu began scoring closer to the basket, but the damage was done.
“We had some breakdowns defensively, and I think it’s at that point in time when you have to execute even better,” Gottfried said. “We were trying to make a 10-point shot every trip. We were trying to get it all back.”
Junior point guard Cat Barber struggled mightily, missing 12 of his 16 shots from the field, and Henderson played seven minutes before leaving with a right ankle injury. X-rays in PNC arena showed no fractures, but he went to a local hospital to be reexamined, and his status will be clearer Saturday.
The Tribe ended up shooting 9-for-22 from 3-point range, and this had a different feel than N.C. State’s mid-November home loss to an experienced North Carolina Central team two years ago or a mid-December loss to Wofford last season.
This setback was immediate, without any good will built up and any concrete proof that the performance was an aberration.
“It’s a long year,” said Abu, who finished with 17 points, six rebounds and four assists. “Get it out of the way now, keep your head up and just keep pushing forward and try to get better every day.”
After one game, the Wolfpack has plenty of room for improvement.