Both teams struggled shooting, handling, and passing the basketball in a game plagued by turnovers. Iowa jumped out to an early 9-2 advantage behind seven quick points from Jeff Horner and five NC State turnovers.
Playing their first true road game, the Wolfpack never looked comfortable on the court, often appearing lethargic and slow on both ends of the floor.
NC State clawed back into the game behind their defense, specifically the strong post presence of Andrew Brackman and Cedric Simmons. Brackman got it started with a sweet block of Adam Haluska's fastbreak layup, and Simmons then just took over in the paint. The 6-foot-9 sophomore had five blocks in the first ten minutes of the game, as the Wolfpack took their first lead at 16-15 on a Cameron Bennerman layup with eight minutes remaining in the half.
NC State's lead wouldn't last long, as the Wolfpack was frigid from the field. Haluska's driving layup with five minutes left gave the Hawkeyes a 18-16 lead, and Iowa led the rest of the half, as both teams headed to the locker rooms with Iowa ahead 25-22.
The Wolfpack hit just 9-of-27 field goal attempts, but Iowa was equally as cold, connecting on just 10-of-33 tries from the field. The lone bright spot for NC State was Simmons. The athletic center had four points, four assists, seven rebounds and a career-high five blocks at the break, and his overall play kept the Wolfpack in the contest throughout the night.
NC State maintained the defensive pressure in the final half and started to get Simmons involved in the low post. Trailing 31-27, Simmons hit a jumper off the glass and a floater in the lane by Gavin Grant tied the score at 31. On the Wolfpack's next possession, Grant found Simmons on the baseline and he slammed down a thunderous dunk. After two free throws from Simmons the Wolfpack led 35-31 with 9:52 remaining.
Iowa, ranked nationally in both polls after starting the season 4-1 with a win over Kentucky last week, wouldn't quit at home and the Hawkeye's reeled off an 10-0 run to take a 41-35 advantage as NC State couldn't hit open shots or control turnovers. NC State entered the matchup averaging 11.8 turnovers per game, but committed 24 and several were unforced errors that proved costly.
The Pack came out of the final media timeout down six and went back in the post to Simmons, who kicked out to Ilian Evtimov and the redshirt senior drained the deep three-pointer, narrowing the Iowa lead to three points. Hawkeye power forward Greg Brunner would then knock down a turnaround jumper, and Simmons scored on another dunk for NC State. After a jumpshot from Horner, Brackman scored on a tough layup in the post, pulling NC State back within three, but the 6-foot-10 forward missed the free throw, and the Pack trailed 45-42 with 35 seconds remaining.
Following an Iowa timeout, the Wolfpack forced an errant jumper from Brunner, and had the ball down three with twenty seconds left. Ilian Evtimov tried to use a screen to get open for a shot, but his three-pointer at the buzzer was short and NC State fell 45-42.
In the final seconds NC State head coach Herb Sendek appeared to be motioning for a timeout, but was unable to do so.
The Wolfpack shot just 34% from the field, hitting 17-of-50 field goal attempts. NC State connected on just 3-of-18 from beyond the arc and even struggled at the free throw line, knocking down only 5-of-10 tries from the charity stripe. The Pack also had zero fastbreak points, unable to get any easy points in transition.
Iowa didn't shoot any better. The Hawkeyes shot a frigid 30% from the field, but knocked down 9-of-11 free throw attempts, which proved the be the difference in the game. Iowa also had 17 points off turnovers and scored 10 points in transition.
NC State's Cedric Simmons had a monster game, dominating the post against 6-foot-11 Iowa senior Erek Hansen. Hansen, who led the Big Ten in blocks last season, couldn't handle Simmons. The Wolfpack big man finished with 13 points, on 5-of-8 shooting, 13 rebounds, six blocks, and five assists. His final rebound, block, and assist numbers were all career highs for Simmons.
No other Wolfpack player scored in double figures and never seemed to get into the flow of the game. Evtimov connected on just 3-of-11 shot attempts while Tony Bethel and Cameron Bennerman combined to go 3-of-12 off the bench. Atsur, who picked up two early fouls, had zero assists and five turnovers while Grant also had five turnovers.
Iowa was led by Adam Haluska's 18 points. Jeff Horner added 11 points and six assists, and Hansen chipped in seven boards and three blocks.
The Wolfpack wasted a huge opportunity to win a big-time road game, but the final contest of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge didn't cost the ACC, as the league clinched the victory earlier in the evening with Duke's win over Indiana.
NC State (5-1) has exams over the next week before facing Appalachain State at 2:00 pm in Reynolds Coliseum.