Season ends badly for N.C. State
by By Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
DAYTON, Ohio – The season that began with the highest of expectations and top-10 rankings ended with red eyes, slumped shoulders and little explanation.
North Carolina State’s season wasn’t supposed to go like this. It wasn’t supposed to end on the first Friday of the NCAA tournament, a round-of-64 loss to No. 9 seed Temple, 76-72. It wasn’t supposed to end with the coach calling his players out for being immature at times this season and lacking focus defensively at others.
“We were a really talented team,” Wolfpack senior forward Scott Wood said, the past tense rolling off his tongue a little too easily. “And we probably should have achieved more than we have.”
TEMPLE WINS: Wyatt’s 31 points lead Owls
A year ago, the Wolfpack were tournament darlings, a No. 11 seed that knocked off No. 6 San Diego State and No. 3 Georgetown to reach the Sweet 16. That postseason run, coupled with the return of forward C.J. Leslie, led media and coaches to pick N.C. State as the favorite to win the Atlantic Coast Conference this season. Leslie was picked as the league’s preseason player of the year, and Rodney Purvis the preseason freshman of the year.
Instead, the Wolfpack went 11-7 in the ACC and 24-11 overall; other players on better teams won those awards. N.C. State landed a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament, an event that was supposed to be special – the 30th anniversary of Jim Valvano and his ’83 national championship Wolfpack team.
On Friday, N.C. State appeared disinterested from the start and lacked any sense of urgency on the defensive end. None of the players offered up any explanation for the poor first-half play; Leslie said he and his teammates simply “weren’t motivated.” Temple raced out to an early lead, and the Owls were up 38-22 by halftime. Though the Wolfpack responded and got within two points by the game’s end, N.C. State couldn’t overcome the hole it dug itself in the first half.
“There’s no reason that it’s the NCAA tournament and we should come out sluggish,” Wood said.