Thanks to Hess' indefensible actions during a 30-second snippet late in the second half, the conversation shifted -- not unexpectedly -- from what actually happened at the RBC Center: a beat down that could have season-altering implications for both teams involved.
Following the loss, Mark Gottfried and NC State's players quickly searched for answers to explain away what happened. There weren't many excuses, but it was clear that the Pack wasn't ready to play a basketball game at 1 p.m. Worse yet, NC State wasn't able to respond to the completely expected punch in the mouth Florida State delivered. All rolled into one, the answers seemed to say 'we weren't ready.'
Given what happened in Durham less than 48 hours before, it's no surprise. And that's not an excuse, it's simply the facts. If NC State had held on against the Blue Devils, or even if Florida State hadn't roared back in the final minute against Virginia Tech, the mindset for both teams would have been different Saturday.
"We walked in [Friday] off a tough loss, and guys were moving a little slow," Gottfried said. "But again, I just believe you have to be bigger and better than that. Every team has to go through a process of growing up, and this is a learning process for us."
That answer alone, mixed with several 'we didn't come to play' responses from Scott Wood, C.J. Williams and C.J. Leslie, seem to indirectly indicate the lingering impact of the Duke loss. It wasn't something anyone wanted to admit, but it was the elephant in the post game room. This team, for all the good its done in Mark Gottfried's first season at the helm, just isn't quite over the hump. And that doesn't make it a bad team, just one that's still finding itself.
A fast start would have gone a long way to helping NC State be 'bigger and better' after Thursday's gut wrenching loss. Seeing some shots go through the net, hearing the home crowd's support and building an early lead would have been the perfect recipe for a win.
Unfortunately for the Pack, the Seminoles may be the one team in the league -- aside from Virginia -- that has no interest in allowing teams to get on a roll early on. On top of that, FSU's size and athleticism seems built to provide a horrible match up for the Pack. By the first media timeout, Florida State had established its pace and built an 8-4 edge. By the under-12 break, the Seminoles had mustered only 11 points. NC State had eight.
When the teams went to their respective huddles again, the game was all but over. Florida State led 25-16 with 7:48 to play in the first half and NC State looked physically outmatched and mentally drained.
"We just weren't mentally ready. We came out kind of sluggish," C.J. Leslie said. "[FSU] played Thursday just like we did so that's not any excuse. We just have to wake up and come out and play."
NC State cut Florida State's lead to four with six minutes left in the first half on a C.J. Leslie jumper, but the outcome never seemed in doubt. That was crystal clear during the second half, when an off-the-court altercation involving two former players was the only thing that got the home crowd on its feet.
"What was disappointing was our response to us not playing well," Gottfried said. "We just kind of accepted our fate. I didn't like that, this team has not done that this year. We've got to get regrouped."
With North Carolina coming to town Tuesday, the regrouping process is going to be harder than ever. Beating North Carolina will be extremely difficult, but it's not impossible, and at this point, it's something NC State almost has to do.
Thanks to a thorough beat down at the hands of the Seminoles and the award-generating actions of Karl Hess, motivation certainly won't be an issue Tuesday night.