Saturday, January 10, 2009

Wolfpack Dismal in ACC Opener; Lose to Clemson 63-51

There are some games when shots just don't fall. There are some games when luck just simply is not on your side, when the ball just doesn't bounce your way. But then there are games like where you are simply unprepared, simply out hustled and simply beaten in every single aspect of the game...and games like these are simply unacceptable. We know NC State cannot out-talent most teams in the ACC, and that is why it is vital for them to bring 100% effort, intensity and focus every time they step on that floor for an ACC match-up. Tonight there was a visible lack of confidence, a lack of toughness, and lack of execution that led to one of the most embarrassing and tough to watch games we've seen since in a long time.

We couldn't buy a shot, we couldn't get a call, we couldn't catch a break...but neither could Clemson. The #11 Tigers were ripe for an upset. Their shots were clanging off the rim, KC Rivers couldn't find his groove, and they seemed uninterested early in the game. The problem is, the Pack couldn't take advantage. Playing their ACC opener against the #11 ranked team in the country, you'd think State would come out hungry, hyped, and all business. Instead they came out scared, timid, and with what appeared to be a sense of nervousness. When traps came, instead of fighting through them and making a strong pass, they lobbed it over the top. Instead of catching the ball and attacking the rim with authority, they pump faked, faded away and allowed Booker to rake down 6 blocked shots, some of which were just silly. The Tigers played hard, very hard, their back court pressure came in waves, and never ceased. They wanted this game bad, and well...they took it.

The coaching staff will say that we didn't want to lose, so will the players...and that is true, but we did not want this game AS much as Clemson did and that was apparent. It truly boggles my mind that a team with as much to prove as the Pack, wouldn't relish the chance to play the #11 team in the nation. Instead of coming out with a chip on their shoulder, they came out with wondering if they could compete, and at that point, the battle was already lost.

We mentioned in our pre-game preview that Clemson would throw constant full-court pressure at the Pack, and that they did. We knew it, Sid knew it, and the players knew it...yet State played as if they were surprised to see the never ending traps and double teams. The point guard play continues to be the downfall. Whether it be Degand (4 TOs, 1 assist) or Javi (2 TOs in 7 minutes), the Pack continues to be utterly careless with the ball...long cross court passes, risky passes inside, and soft timid passes out of traps. Our post game was taken away by the relentlessness and fierce play of Trevor Booker. The Pack had no where to turn and no one to turn to. We sincerely hope that Sidney Lowe saw what the rest of the Wolfpack Nation saw, and does whatever it takes to correct it.

Outside of execution and toughness, we did see some positives that the Wolfpack can build on. Julius Mays continues to impress. Not with his speed, or his athleticism, but with his smarts and his jump shot. While the kid may not be a viable ACC point guard at this point of his career, we feel as if he may be the best option the Pack has to protect the basketball, especially if Degand continues to be as careless as he has with the ball. Another positive was our defense. We played good team defense and held Clemson to 42% shooting, which is 7% lower than their average. We also held their leading scorer, KC Rivers, to 9 points. The problem was, everything we could do, Clemson did better. Overall this was a very tough loss for the Pack, because it was a winnable game against the #11 team in the country. On the other hand, the Wolfpack has only taken losses to teams that are ranked, or have been at some point this season. But even if that trend continues, the Wolfpack won't win enough to assure a bid to the NCAA tournament...they're going to have to find ways to win these games, grind them out, and show us, and themselves, that they can compete for a slot in the postseason. Although we are disappointed, we still feel that this team is capable of making a run in this young season.


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