Off night costs Wolfpack conference win

Off night costs Wolfpack conference win

Published Jan. 11, 2012 11:59 p.m. ET

— Part of NC State's growth from where it was under the
previous regime to where first-year coach Mark Gottfried envisions it becoming
is a process that will sometimes include nights like this.

The Wolfpack's 82-71 loss to an underwhelming Georgia Tech team was about a
club that still has to learn to string together quality performances. They can't
look at an excellent win and believe they have arrived. They must forgo self
pats on the back and move forward to the next challenge. In a down ACC, failing
to do so will usually result in a defeat.

"We came out with intensity, but we were kind of loose with the ball,"
senior wing C.J. Williams said. “I think we had three turnovers before the
first media timeout. We can't have that. You have to take care of the ball
against a team like that. They like to run and that enabled them to get into a
comfort zone."

The Wolfpack (12-5, 1-1 ACC) turned the ball over early because they didn't
appear all that focused, certainly not at the level they were three nights
earlier in a win over Maryland, ending a nine-game skid against the Terrapins.

The Yellow Jackets didn't come into the RBC Center with a sexy reputation or
respectable record, and maybe that affected the mindset of the Pack, too.

Not only did Georgia Tech hang around and not let the Pack go on any runs in
the first half, but the Jackets flexed their muscles defensively. When the offense
started clicking, Tech closed out the half on a 19-3 run and led 40-29 at the break.

After State cut it to 45-40 with 14:01 left, Tech reeled off
11 consecutive points to take command. It was clear one team was more dialed in
than the other.

"We just didn't play well," Gottfried kept saying after the game.

True, but credit Georgia Tech for playing stingier defense than it was known
for under previous coach Paul Hewitt. First-year coach Brian Gregory had the
Jackets ready and they were the enforcer, which should rarely happen to a home
team in this league. Tech didn't let NC State comfortably run its offensive
sets and turned Wolfpack forward Richard Howell into a driver, which isn't
exactly his forte.  

The Pack were disjointed on offense and allowed too many good looks on defense.
The Yellow Jackets got to more loose balls, outrebounded the home team by five
and were just scrappier. That increased as the game wore on and Tech realized
it was in position to pull off the upset.

Any attempts at a comeback may or may not have been adversely affected by the
restless crowd seemingly frazzling the Pack's minds. The fans clearly didn't
approve of the officiating, even though most every call was correct. So 
frustrated was NC State that Gottfried was even whistled up by Roger Ayers for
a technical foul in the second half.

"Let me say this clearly, the officials, they didn't cost us the game, not
at all," the coach said. "Everybody can have an opinion. My take on
all that is my team has to play better. I'm not into excuses. I'm not into that
at all."

Of greater importance, however, is that Gottfried's task of generating more
consistency from his team is something facing this club square in the face.
Puzzling performances against the likes of NC Central and Campbell, among
others, and this night's exhibition on the heels of such a promising win over
Maryland, must be dealt with, even if the coach isn't interested in opening the
program's vault to allow any peeking inside.  

"It's a challenge, everything's a challenge," Gottfried said.
"Our team has played pretty well and I thought tonight we just didn't play
well. I thought we played really hard. We competed. We just didn't play