Defensive Issues

For one week, NC State looked like the best team in the ACC. The Wolfpack went to Blacksburg and handed No. 18 Virginia Tech its first home loss of the season. Just three days later the Pack did the unthinkable, knocking off No. 3 North Carolina at home.

The Wolfpack went to Blacksburg and handed No. 18 Virginia Tech its first home loss of the season. Just three days later the Pack did the unthinkable, knocking off No. 3 North Carolina at home.

Then the Pack jumped out to a 15-point lead against Georgia Tech on the road, only to let it slip away. Losses to Miami and Maryland followed, and each time the Pack let winnable games slip away in the second half.

"We let a big one slip against Georgia Tech," Gavin Grant said. "Then at Miami we were just flat. [Wednesday] we came out and made a run, then they made their run and we just stopped playing with 10 minutes to go."

Now the Pack is staring at its first three-game losing streak of the season. Fatigue has been a big factor in the Pack's string of late-game collapses. Gavin Grant, Ben McCauley, Brandon Costner and Courtney Fells are all in the top seven in minutes played in the conference.

But fatigue hasn't been the only factor in those losses. Defense has been the Pack's biggest problem, not just during its three-game skid but throughout the conference season.

"It all boils down to defense," Ben McCauley said. "We've got guys that can make shots but we really have to defend. Lately we've been a little bit slow on the defense end and that's what's been killing us."

The Pack has held a conference opponent under 70 points just twice, in its 70-59 win in Blacksburg and in a 67-62 road loss to Virginia. If only the Pack could play every game in a commonwealth.

Overall, ACC opponents are averaging 75 points a game and shooting 46 percent from the field. When they do miss, the Pack hasn't done a great job of keeping teams off the offensive glass, getting beat on the offensive boards 148 to 94 in league play.

"You've got to work your tails off, especially on the defensive end," Lowe said. "A lot of people don't want to do that – good players on good teams do."

The defense has only gotten worse in the last three contests. Georgia Tech shot 54 percent for the game against the Wolfpack. Miami, which is last in the conference in field goal percentage, shot 56 percent in the second half.

"We have to get back to work and improve our defense," Lowe said. "It all comes down to guarding your guy, staying on him."

After watching Maryland shoot 60 percent in the second half on Wednesday, Lowe pointed to an unlikely Wolfpack player as a defensive example for the rest of the squad to follow.

"Bryan Nieman was the one guy that really defended tonight – he's not the most athletic guy, he's not the quickest guy, but he's the best guy, because he works at it and he works at it and he never stops," Lowe said. "That's what you have to do."

Lowe has already hammered the point home with his team – get better on defense or the losses are going to start piling up quickly.

"We have to get better on defense - stop some people," Engin Atsur said. "That's how we are going to win games, its frustrating losing. We want to win and it's just not happening right now."


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