Another comeback falls short for NC State in 84-79 loss to Miami

Despite having a 12-point lead late in the first half, the Wolfpack squandered a crucial home game in loss to Hurricanes.

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
North Carolina State Wolfpack forward Abdul-Malik Abu (0) reacts as he walks off the court after the college basketball game against Wake Forest at PNC Arena in Raleigh

RALEIGH — It all seemed to be going right for NC State in the first half. The Wolfpack shot 62.1 percent from the field, hit 8 of 10 3-pointers and led by as many as 12 points before taking a 45-36 lead into the locker room.Then it all went wrong … again.The Hurricanes went on a 17-7 run to start the second half to take the lead and never looked back. State led by as much as three points after that point, but hot shooting from Davon Reed along with huge points off the bench from Anthony Lawrence and Ebuka Izundu was too much in an 84-79 Miami win.While NC State shot better than Miami — 56 percent to 50 — the Canes came away with 62 shots compared to just 48 from the Pack. Much of that was due to an ineffectiveness on the defensive end of the floor when it came to rebounding. Miami cleaned up on the boards with 17 offensive rebounds compared to just five for NC State.”The main thing in today’s game is our inability to get a defensive rebound and that led to them shooting a much better percentage,” NC State head coach Mark Gottfried said. “It led to some kick outs off of some offensive rebounds that made some threes. We have to come up with a defensive rebound.”Rebounding wasn’t the only category where the Canes torched the Pack. Miami came away with more second-chance points (16-10), points in the paint (32-16), fast break points (23-13) and a staggering mismatch in bench points (35-2).The Pack did come away with 11 blocks in the game — nine combined from Omer Yurtseven and BeeJay Anya — but still gave up 80-plus points for the fifth straight game. Outside of an 84-82 win over Duke, State lost the other four games. Saturday’s loss also marked the fifth straight home defeat after going 11-0 in Raleigh to start the season.”We just have to learn as a team and execute down the stretch you know on both ends, not just offense,” Terry Henderson said. “You know playing together on the defensive end is costing us games and we just have to get better at that.Henderson and Smith were on fire in the first half, combining for 33 of NC State’s 45 points on 8-of-9 shooting from three-point range. While Smith scored 14 in the second half to finish with 31 points, Henderson didn’t take another shot in the second half until he hit a 3-pointer with four seconds remaining.When asked about the lack of attempts in the second half, Henderson certainly didn’t act like it was his choice to stop shooting.”I really don’t have any comment on that honestly,” he said. “I was just worried about going out there and getting stops on defense. I wasn’t really stressing offense too much. Our main focus was getting stops on defense.”Meanwhile, Smith finished with 31 points on 10 for 15 shooting, but went 4 for 9 in the second half. In games where Smith has scored 30-plus points or registered a triple-double, the Wolfpack is 3-3 with a 1-3 record in the last four such contests.Smith also added nine assists and three steals, but also recorded five turnovers in 39 minutes played. He even tried to pad his stats with an assist to himself off the backboard, but missed the layup. It was a strange second half, to say the least, but Gottfried still believes his team is close to playing winning basketball.”We’re a team that’s playing hard, we’re competing hard, but we’re a handful plays away,” Gottfried said. “We’ve got to figure out how to get over that hump. That’s where we are. It’s not catastrophic. It’s not. We’re right there and our guys competed really hard, but we’ve got to make some plays in all those areas that’ll give us the chance to have a different outcome.”As for Henderson, he isn’t quite sure where the team stands but is ready to get over that metaphorical hump soon. With road games against No. 15 Florida State and Wake Forest before coming home to play No. 12 North Carolina and No. 20 Notre Dame, Henderson came to terms with the Pack’s current position at 3-8 in ACC play.”Who are we?” Henderson questioned. “It’s either now or never. If you ask me, I’m tired of losing. Nobody on our team wants to lose. You just have to take it in account that you have to come back even stronger and ready to play even more. It’s not going to get easier.”