Multiple Issues In Defeat

CORAL GABLES, FL -- NC State still had a chance to knock off Miami despite the slow second-half start, inability to get to the free throw line, and poor shooting from the team's two best scorers.

NC State should have won in Coral Gables.

While it is certainly not a deal-breaker, it was a great chance for the Wolfpack to create separation, the games against Miami often are, and put State squarely in the mix among top-tier teams in the ACC that look set to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Great teams go on prolonged winning streaks, while mediocre squads fall apart in conference play. So far, NC State is neither. The Pack has split its last 12 games without posted two straight victories or losses. No. 8 Notre Dame visiting Raleigh on Sunday will put that recent form to a stern test.

"Who knows? Some of it is who you are playing, your opponent," Mark Gottfried said when asked about the 12-game stretch. "Who knows? There are very few, easy games in the league. We come back home, and we get Notre Dame, who is obviously playing very well this year. You have just got to get yourselves ready to play.

"It is like Miami. Tell me how many teams in the country that you know are going to go in to Cameron and pound Duke by [16 points] like they did? You can’t say that was a one-night wonder. They beat them bad. It is a good team."

Like a pitcher that struggles when he cannot quite hit his spots, the Pack left things on the table at BankUnited Center.

Miami essentially won the game at the free throw line, out-scoring the Wolfpack by 15 from the charity stripe.

"We couldn’t get to the foul line," said Gottfried. "We ended up taking four foul shots, so that wasn’t very good either."

Teams with athletic wings haven given NC State problems, and Miami has plenty of size and athleticism on the perimeter with Sheldon McClellan, Davon Reed, and James Palmer primarily guarding Lacey and Turner. NC State's dynamic scored just 19 points, almost 12 below their average, while hitting just 7-of-25 shots from the field.

With that being said, a good road win was right there for the Wolfpack.

State led by seven at halftime, but a horrid start to the second half had the Pack down three at the first TV timeout.

"We finished the first half and had a seven-point lead," Gottfried said. "We gave it away so quick. That is what bothers me. That was frustrating for us.

"It is a lesson, I guess, you have got to keep learning. These guy have got to learn. You can’t come out in the second half with that kind of casual attitude for a couple of minutes. Even though it was a couple of minutes, it evaporated our lead."

As they've done for much of the season, NC State continued to fight. The Pack would trail by as many as nine in the second half before cutting the deficit to just one point with 20 seconds remaining.

"I thought we played with great courage," he stated. "Our guys played hard. They executed some things down there right at the end."

Now they must turn their attention to No. 8 Notre Dame, who will come to Raleigh on Sunday fresh off a double-digit win over Virginia Tech.

NC State is walking the tightrope between being a bunch that stands out as really good or being a team that blends in among the other inconsistent schools. Gottfried needs an answer soon. The second half of the ACC regular season is near.

"There are a lot of good things to build on," said Gottfried. "We have got a lot of basketball left. You have got to teach, coach, correct and do all the things that you do."

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