Head coach Sidney Lowe, who had been battling flu-like symptoms for several days, was not on the sidelines but en route to the hospital. Lowe had tried to coach in spite of the illness, but began feeling faint during halftime and a team physician determined he was suffering from dehydration.
"At halftime he didn't feel good at all – we all hope and pray he's out there tomorrow." assistant coach Monte Towe, who took over for Lowe in the second half, said. "I'm sure [the team] sensed when I came to talk to them instead of coach Lowe that something was up. The word was he wanted to try to come back on the floor but the medical people didn't think it was a good idea for him to do that."
The Wolfpack, down just a point at half, quickly fell behind No. 5 North Carolina without their red-clad leader on the sidelines. The Tar Heels held a double-digit lead for most of the half on their way to a 83-64 win over the Pack on Wednesday night at the Dean Dome.
"It's really unfortunate," Ben McCauley said. "It seemed like we were doing everything right in the first half and to not do that in the second half is very confusing to me."
State's (14-12, 4-9 ACC) offense crumpled in the second half, committing a litany of turnovers that allowed the Heels to get easy baskets in transition. When the Pack did force stop, the Heels (24-4, 10-3) attacked the glass and got putback after putback. With 10 minutes left to go, the one-point halftime lead had grown to a 14-point advantage.
Lowe acts as a sideline point guard for the Pack offense, calling plays and making adjustments on the fly. Without him, the offense failed to create the wide-open looks that helped the Wolfpack maintain a lead for much of the first half.
"We weren't running an offense – we were just jacking up crazy shots," Gavin Grant said. "We didn't have anyone to turn to as far as being a leader. We just unraveled. It was like we were playing a pick-up game against an organized basketball team – that's what it looked like."
The Pack led much of the first half with the help of its senior leader. Atsur scored 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting in the half, hitting a couple of big 3-pointers to quiet the Dean Dome crowd.
State also battled the Heels to a stalemate on the boards, pulling down 17 each. The two teams traded the lead eight times, but the Pack allowed Carolina to shoot 52 percent in the first 20 minutes, leading to a 41-40 halftime lead for the Tar Heels.
"Lowe usually comes in [at the half] and talks to us," McCauley said. "Coach Towe got in there a little bit late and that was cause for concern – something was up."
Without Lowe on the sidelines, the Pack never mustered the same kind of intensity that carried it through the early portions of the game. Atsur never scored another point as the Heels through body after body at the senior point guard.
"They adjust their pick-and-roll defense," Atsur said. "They did a good job in the second half."
The Heels also dominated the offense glass in the second half, out-rebounding the Pack 24-6 and grabbing 13 offensive boards. That meant plenty of easy second-chance scores for the Carolina offense, which shot an even 50 percent for the game. Tyler Hansbrough and Brandan Wright led all scorers with 20 and 24 respectively.
"We didn't rebound very well – they got those offensive rebounds and putbacks," McCauley said. "That helped them build momentum."