Cold As Ice

NC State's success this season can often be measured by a single statistic... field goal shooting. When they shoot the ball well, they win. When they don't, they lose.

NC State's success this season can often be measured by a single statistic... field goal shooting. When they shoot the ball well, they win. When they don't, they lose.

That's likely the case with most teams, but there is a clear benchmark for the Wolfpack.

Seven games this year NC State has shot better than 50% from the field. Their record in those games? 7-0. The other 10 games? 4-6. When they shoot better from the field and/or the same as their opponent, NC State is 11-1. When the opponent shoots a better percentage? 0-5.

The Wolfpack's inability to shoot well from the field is a big reason why they have lost four of their last six games and have started league play 1-3. The last time NC State shot better than 50% from the field was on December 21st when they shot 58.2% in defeating East Carolina 90-79.

Ever since that game, it's been poor shooting for the Wolfpack. In fact, they haven't shot over 42% in the previous six games.

It's been a variety of issues. NC State hasn't been able to establish a consistent transition game. They've missed open shots. They've faced a lot of zone that has slowed down the tempo and made them more of a perimeter shooting team. Opponents have defended star wing T.J. Warren much better.

In last night's loss at Wake Forest, it was the zone defense. The Wolfpack opened the game shooting 51.6% from the field in the first half while mainly facing Wake's man-to-man defense. However, late in the half the Deacs switched to a zone and stayed in it the remainder of the game.

"The zone defense I think threw us a little bit but we should be used to it," said center Jordan Vandenberg. "We work on our zone offense every day we just didn't find our rhythm."

NC State hit just 7-of-24 shots in the final 20 minutes (29.2%), including 0-of-9 from 3-point range (after hitting 2-of-4 in the first half).

"I thought it wasn't bad," Mark Gottfried said of his team's zone offense. "We had some good looks. Ralston Turner had some good looks, great shots that you want him to take.

"We could have got the ball inside a little more against the zone and moved it a little better, but we were getting some pretty good shots at the end of whatever we ran."

Sure, they were able to get some open looks, but they may have not been the best shots. After scoring 24 points in the paint in the first half, the Pack had just 12 in the second half. They often settled for quick jumpers instead of consistently running their offense against the zone to try and work the ball into the paint where they had a major size advantage.

Cat Barber and Ralston Turner attempted 14 of the Pack's 24 shots in the second half. At least 12 of those were jumpshots. The duo combined to go 3-of-14 from the field in the second half and 6-of-24 for the game.

As Gottfried pointed out, they had open shots. They just didn't make many of them.

The Pack still had a chance to win. They could have folded when T.J. Warren fouled out, but they fought back to take the lead on two free throws by Lee before Wake's Codi Miller-McIntyre hit the game-winner.

"We gave ourselves a chance to win," said Turner. "Give them credit. They made some plays at the end."

"I'm really proud of my team," added Gottfried. "We had to overcome a lot, we were in some bad foul trouble, but I thought our guys played with a lot of courage, they competed and we put ourselves in a position to win.

"We just needed to make one more defensive play. We were one defensive play short. But I liked our guys effort, and I'll take it every time."

The cure for the Wolfpack could be finding their shooting stroke... and finding it for a full 40 minutes, not just a half.

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