On Sunday against Florida State, that all too similar story re-wrote itself for the Pack, who fell 72-62 to the Seminoles on senior night at the RBC Center. The loss dropped NC State to 5-11 in league play and 15-15 overall and sets up a meeting with Maryland in the first round of the ACC Tournament Thursday.
Despite battling back in the second half and taking a 53-52 lead with 8:11 to play, defensive lapses and offensive inefficiency -- the things that have plagued the Pack all season -- reared their ugly heads. A 10-3 Florida State run pushed the Seminoles lead back to six with 4:52 to play, ending NC State's hopes of getting a season-ending victory over the Seminoles.
"We came back and had a good run in there," head coach Sidney Lowe said. "We made some substitutions and put some people back in there, and right away we made a mistake, they got a layup. We didn't play defensively like we did with the group that made the comeback."
CJ Leslie led NC State with 12 points, but no other players finished in double figures for the Wolfpack. Scott Wood, Tracy Smith and Richard Howell all finished with eight points while Lorenzo Brown and CJ Williams added seven apiece.
Another sluggish start by NC State allowed Florida State to build a 13-point lead midway through the first half and a 9-point cushion at the break, 34-25.
The Seminoles led by as much as 11 in the second half, but an 8-0 run over a 3-minute span tied the game at 50 with 9:10 to play. Less than a minute later, Scott Wood's second three of the game put the Wolfpack up 53-52 with 8:11 to play.
Following a 30-second timeout and substitutions by NC State, the Seminoles went on the decisive run of the game, preying on the Wolfpack with the pick-and-roll and using the athleticism of Michael Snaer and Derwin Kitchen. The pair scored eight straight points for the Seminoles to help put the Wolfpack away. While Lowe wouldn't blame any one player for the defensive breakdowns, he said it was NC State's inability to defend the pick-and-roll late which cost the Wolfpack the game.
"I broke down defensively a couple of times, let Snaer come off some ball screens and get wide-open shots," forward CJ Williams said. "I've got to get better at that."
Derwin Kitchen led Florida State with 17 points and 13 rebounds while Bernard James added 14. Jon Kreft scored 12 off the bench for the 'Noles. Florida State dominated inside, scoring 38 points in the paint and out-rebounding NC State 37-33.
"I didn't think we were physical enough," Lowe said. "They had a couple guys in there, and we didn't seem to ever have enough guys in there. They used their strength and size."
While the regular season ended with Sunday's loss, Lowe and his players said they are ready for Thursday's opening round game against the Terrapins, who beat NC State 87-80 Feb. 20.
"I think we let down a lot of people, a lot of fans," sophomore forward Scott Wood said. " But we have a chance to make up for that in the ACC Tournament. The season is definitely not over -- anything can happen in this tournament."
Lowe, who knows better than most how true that statement is, said "anything can happen" in Greensboro. Thursday's tip from the Greensboro Coliseum is scheduled for 7 p.m.