WVU Holds Off State, 83-69

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- Many teams wilt under the tension of the big stage of Madison Square Garden. On Saturday, it was the pressure presented by an unrelenting West Virginia defense that did NC State in.

The Wolfpack fell to the Mountaineers, 83-69, in front of a raucous crowd of 8,088 at the Gotham Classic to drop to 9-3 on the season. West Virginia improved to 10-1 with the victory.

Trevor Lacey led NC State with 24 points and Cat Barber added 16. No other player finished with more than nine.

NC State lead by five points with 12:44 remaining in the first half but showed signs of struggling with West Virginia’s stifling pressure defense. The Wolfpack committed 16 turnovers in the first half, 23 for the game. Lacey, Barber, and Ralston Turner combined for 14 giveaways.

“I thought in the first half their pressure bothered us,” NC State head coach Mark Gottfried said. “We played like a young team and they looked like sharks in the water.”

The Mountaineers scored eight straight points shortly after West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins was assessed a technical foul during the under-eight media break in the first half and never trailed.

NC State the first half with only half the shots from the floor as West Virginia. For the game, the Pack shot 20-for-36 (55.6 percent) from the floor while the Mountaineers countered with a 31-for-58 (53.4 percent).

The Pack cut the deficit from 13 points to one on two occasions and trailed, 54-53, after Lacey scored a basket with 10:50 remaining. West Virginia, led by All-Big 12 First Team senior guard Juwan Staten, who finished with 24 points on 10-for-17 shooting from the floor along with six assists.

“I thought Staten late in the game just took it over,” Gottfried said. “He hit shots in four or five possessions in a row where he took the game over.”

The frontcourt for NC State struggled again on Saturday. The bigger and more-experienced Mountaineers limited he Pack’s forwards could do and Gottfried was left to lament once again the lack of production while also considering other options during the remaining non-conference slate.

NC State’s guards combined for 49 of the Pack’s 69 points on Saturday. The frontcourt players only collected 10 rebounds.

“I have talked to [his frontcourt players],” Gottfried said. “I’ve tried my best so far and you look down tonight…at some point we may look at using four guards, but we have got to get more production. It’s just that simple.”

NC State returns to action on Tuesday, December 23 against Louisiana Tech at home. The Wolfpack have three remaining games before entering conference play.

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