Playing at home against Arizona, the Wolfpack once again fell flat against a big-name opponent. Following losses to Georgetown, Wisconsin and Syracuse – this game marked the final and best opportunity for the Pack to get a resume-building victory.
"We've played [four] top teams all in their divisions and came up short in all of them," Scott Wood said. "It definitely hurts."
Still playing without its All-ACC forward Tracy Smith, the Pack never managed to gain control during its 72-62 loss to the Wildcats on Sunday night at the RBC Center. Every time the Pack would cut into the lead, Arizona would answer with a run of its own.
"That was a little step back for us," head coach Sidney Lowe said. "I thought we were learning and moving in the right direction and that was a step back."
Lowe still isn't sure when the Pack will get its senior leader back on the court, as Smith continues to experience pain during workouts. Lowe added that doctor's have cleared Smith to play but that he will not put his senior on the court until Smith feels ready to play.
"It's one of those things where Tracy is going to have to decide that he can play with a little bit of pain." Lowe said. "That's up to him."
"We have to be patient with him – he's definitely trying. He's trying to push it as much as he can."
The Pack shot a dismal 32 percent for the game while the Wildcats hit on 45 percent of its shots. The Pack had 17 more shot opportunities thanks to 23 offensive rebounds on 45 misses, but couldn't take advantage of those second-chances.
"We missed a ton of easy shots where we had the ball right in there," Lowe said. "We got it there, we just missed it."
Wood led the Pack with 16 points and 4-of-7 shooting from behind the arc. Two other players scored in double figures for the Pack - Lorenzo Brown scored 14 points, all in the first half while Richard Howell scored 12 for the game.
The freshman duo of CJ Leslie and Ryan Harrow had a particularly bad evening from the floor, combining to shoot 2-for-23 for the game. Leslie led the Pack with 11 rebounds and had plenty of looks in the paint but couldn't get the ball to go through the net.
"He got extremely frustrated. It was one of things where he was trying harder and harder and it just wasn't going for him."
The Pack stayed with the Wildcats for most of the first half despite its poor shooting performance. Lorenzo Brown scored all 14 of his points during the first half, helping to carry the rest of the team and escape the first half with just a 36-32 deficit.
"At the half I thought we were good," Lowe said. "We were solid on both ends even though they executed some stuff. We were good at the half."
The second half did not go as smoothly for the Pack, as the poor shooting continued but the Arizona offense heated up. Two 3s from Scott Wood cut the lead to 52-50, but the Pack failed to score on its next eight possessions and never again got within six points of the visiting Wildcats.
"It was just one of those games where we couldn't finish," Richard Howell said. "What really hurt us is the turnovers. We were stopping them and then we would come down and turn the ball over. So basically our offense killed us on defense."