Hurricane head coach Frank Haith made a small change in his starting lineup, as he inserted senior walk-on Keaton Copeland for leading scorer Jack McClinton. The move proved pivotal as both players played stellar games, particularly the 6-foot-5 Copeland.
An undersized power forward who is playing due to the rash of injuries, battled on the glass all day and his aggressive play may have been the difference in the game. Copeland finished with six points and a game-high 13 rebounds, and freshman center Dwayne Collins added nine points and 10 boards.
"We talked about Copeland and what he does," NC State head coach Sidney Lowe said following the game. "He manhandled us… he really did. He pushed us under, he pushed us around, and he was very active to the basketball. We didn't respond."
Despite outshooting Miami from the field, the Hurricanes attempted 17 more shots than the Wolfpack, largely due to a 21-8 advantage on the offensive glass. The Canes outrebounded State 42-25 overall, scoring 19 second-chance points to just 11 for the Wolfpack. Guard penetration played a role in the differential, but Lowe stated Miami simply outworked his team.
"They got penetration on us, but they outworked us," said Lowe. "Their bigs outworked our bigs… period. That was the bottomline. A couple of times we had to step up, but for the most part they were more active, more aggressive, and they outworked us.
"On the boards, we talked about that over and over again about this team. They are second in the league with rebounds, and we talked about boxing them out."
With the Canes big men controlling the glass, it allowed their guards to penetrate and kick for open jumpers that were converted today. McClinton totaled 18 points (6-of-12) and five rebounds, and senior point guard Anthony Harris also scored 18. Wing Brian Asbury chipped in 17 points, but it was the huge numbers posted by lead guards Harris and McClinton that bothered Lowe the most. Engin Atsur, still not fully recovered from his hamstring injury, struggled trying to defend the quicker guards off the dribble, and late in the game Lowe went to freshman Trevor Ferguson.
"Our energy on defense… we didn't guard anyone out at the point at the very beginning right there," said Lowe. "Engin was having a tough time defensively… they were breaking him down and getting into the gut. We needed stops, and Trevor did a nice job… he did a very nice job for us."
With just under eight minutes remaining in the game, Asbury drilled a 3-pointer to give Miami a 63-47 advantage, but NC State didn't quit. Behind a late surge from Ben McCauley and Gavin Grant, the Pack used a 9-0 run to cut into Miami's lead but a big three from Harris essentially ended the comeback. McCauley led the Wolfpack with 19 points and six boards, a huge chunk of his points coming late in the game.
"We executed, we passed the ball around, and we made good passes," Lowe said of the late spurt. "[McCauley] was able to get it close enough, and he was able to finish it."
The loss has to be frustrating for NC State. After two huge wins against Virginia Tech and North Carolina appeared to give the Wolfpack some momentum, back-to-back losses to Georgia Tech and Miami drops them to 13-10 overall and just 3-7 in conference play. The good news is the next two games are at home against Maryland and Virginia Tech. The bad news? Following those two games, NC State will conclude the season by playing three of the final four games away from the RBC Center.