RALEIGH — How awful was Wednesday night’s loss for NC State on Wednesday night against North Carolina? Things got so bad for the Wolfpack that, with the Tar Heels leading by 29 points at the 1:08 mark in the second half, fans were yelling apologies to star freshman point guard Dennis Smith, Jr. Not obscenities — apologies. “I’m sorry, Dennis!” a Wolfpack fan screamed loud enough for few fans remaining to hear.NC State should have reached its lowest point already, and still managed to find away to push the bar further down.For Smith, who ranks fifth in the ACC in points per game (18.7), second in steals (2.04) and first in assists (6.77), it is an entirely new experience.”It’s different,” Smith said. “This is the first time I’ve been on a team — record-wise — that’s a losing team. So it’s something new for me.”It wasn’t supposed to be this way. As the centerpiece of a retooled roster, Smith was supposed to usher in a new era of success for NC State, with the Wolfpack sitting as a fringe top-25 team and a sleeper to make a deep run in March.A year after posting the Wolfpack’s first losing record since 2009-10, the final year under Sidney Lowe, Mark Gottfried retooled with a great recruiting class. He added 5-star players Smith and Omer Yurtseven along with 4-star players in Ted Kapita and Markell Johnson. The Pack already had the likes of Abdul-Malik Abu, Terry Henderson, Maverick Rowan, Torin Dorn and BeeJay Anya, helping build offseason hype for the program.The hype seemed real. The North State Journal wasn’t immune. Prior to the year, I put the Wolfpack in the top three of the ACC. Boy, was I wrong.Rowan, Henderson, Abu and Dorn have all played well at times, but lack consistency. Yurtseven has shown glimpses of greatness, but looks lost more often. Kapita and Johnson are constantly fighting for minutes, but have spent entire games on the bench. Anya doomed himself prior to the season with what we’ll call a lack of proper conditioning.Instead of competing in the ACC, NC State has been curb stomped in the last two games by in-state opponents Wake Forest and UNC. Both teams have called out the Pack for quitting in games, with Joel Berry doubling down on Wednesday night.”I think they gave up a little bit,” Berry said. “They have the pieces. I’m not trying to knock anything that they’re doing. They have a good team. … They did that last time. We just wanted to come out and attack them tonight.”NC State’s 24-point loss to Carolina was its third straight by more than 20 points. It was the fifth loss by 24 points or more, including the 51-point deficit in Chapel Hill. It also happened to be a sixth straight loss for the Wolfpack and fifth in the last six at PNC Arena.After that loss at the Dean Dome, it didn’t seem like the Pack could sink any lower. Then it lost to Boston College. Then came home losses to Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Then there was the overtime loss to Syracuse after leading by 16 points and a triple-double by Smith. Now State has lost by a combined 78 points over the last three games. To say this team is beaten down is an understatement. It truly seems to have lost all hope and the results prove it. With just four games remaining in the regular season, all Gottfried can hope for at this point is to not lose out. A 17th loss would be the most for the program since Les Robinson’s 1993-94 squad lost 19 games for a second straight season. That would easily be the lowest point for the Wolfpack in more than two decades.
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