Offensive futility sends Wolfpack to record-setting defeat

NC State managed just 24 points Saturday, its fewest ever in the shot clock era, in falling to Virginia Tech at PNC Arena

A frustated NC State coach Kevin Keatts looks toward the court in the during the final minutes of Saturday's 47-24 loss to Virginia Tech (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

 RALEIGH — The NC State basketball team has designed several home games on its schedule this season as theme nights honoring various decades from the past.

  There have already been games celebrating the music, trends and outfits from the 1990s and 2000s with an ‘80s night still to come.

  Although it wasn’t officially planned, Saturday’s matchup against Virginia Tech at PNC Arena turned into a commemoration of the ‘20s.

  But it was hardly a celebration.

  That’s because the Wolfpack never made it out of the 20s on the scoreboard for the entire game in a 47-24 humiliation at the hands of the No. 12 Hokies.

  It was a game that started badly and got worse as it went along for coach Kevin Keatts’ 23rd-ranked team, which posted its lowest point total ever since the advent of the shot clock in 1985.

  “I don’t know that I’ve ever been a part of a game where none of our guys played well,” Keatts said. “Obviously we didn’t shoot well at all. I thought it would get better in the second half. But it didn’t. It’s one of those games where the ball didn’t go in and we didn’t play great.”

  The staggering numbers jump off the stat sheet in support of Keatts’ assessment.

  State (16-6, 4-5 ACC) made just nine of its 54 field goal attempts in the game (16.7 percent) and was a horrendous 2 of 28 from 3-point range — with one of the two makes coming from big man Wyatt Walker, who had only attempted three all season before Saturday.

  Guards Braxton Beverly and Markell Johnson combined to go 0 for 17 overall and 0 for 14 from beyond the arc while C.J. Bryce, with just seven points, led the team in scoring.

  The Wolfpack came into the game averaging 84.4 points per game, third in the ACC and hadn’t scored fewer than 65 points in a game all season. But thanks to a nine-minute drought in the first half and a disastrous 11½-minute stretch without a field goal in the second, State was only able to manage 14 points over the opening 20 minutes and 10 over the final 20.

  State, which thrives off its transition game and playing at a high tempo, had zero fast break points in the game and while it managed 14 offensive rebounds — including seven by Walker — it converted them into only a single basket.

 What made the effort all the more frustrating is that the Hokies (18-3, 7-2) played the game without their best player, point guard Justin Robinson, who sat out the game with an injured foot.

  “It’s almost a loss of words,” graduate center Wyatt Walker said afterward. “It’s embarrassing. This has to be the worst loss I’ve ever been a part of. It’s just embarrassing.”

  The 24 points surpassed the previous shot clock low of 36 points, scored in a loss to Princeton on Nov. 12, 1997. They were the lowest in any game since the infamous stall game against Duke at the 1968 ACC tournament in which the Wolfpack beat the Blue Devils 12-10.

  As bad as things were on Saturday, State was actually still in the game at halftime — trailing by only six at 20-14 — thanks to a defense that forced nine Tech turnovers and limited the Hokies to 8 of 25 shooting.

  Things briefly began looking up early in the second half when Walker hit his trey and Bryce made a jumper in the lane to get the Wolfpack back to within 22-19 with 18:29 to go. But that was the last field goal State would make until Torin Dorn finally broke the ice with 6:49 remaining.

  In between Tech (18-3, 7-2) outscored the Wolfpack 17-1 to break the game open.

  “We didn’t have it today, for whatever the reason,” Keatts said. “If you look at these numbers, it’s mind-boggling. I thought in the second half, our defense struggled because of our offense. In the first half we just missed shots. We gave up some baskets in the second half because we got frustrated because we weren’t making shots.”

  “It was an off night. We’ve got to figure out how to not have any more of those.”

  They don’t have long to come up with an answer. State’s next game is on Tuesday in Chapel Hill against a suddenly hot North Carolina team that beat the Wolfpack at PNC four weeks ago.

  “We always try to just think about next-game mentality,” Bryce said. “That’s something we’ve got to keep.

  “To score 10 points in the second half is something I never thought would happen for this team with the amount of talent we have. Those shots will drop for us. We just have to keep pushing forward.”