The No. 21 Wolfpack walked out onto the RBC Center court on Sunday night expected a cake-walk over visiting New Orleans. They walked off the court shell-shocked, staring at a scoreboard that improbably read 65-63 in favor of the Privateers.
"I don't want to say we took them lightly because I don't think we did," senior Gavin Grant said. "But we didn't come out with the energy we should have. It seemed like, I don't know, just inside the team issues that we've got to work on. We've got to come out and play 40 hard minutes. We didn't play 40 hard minutes today."
Yes, it took an off-balance 3-pointer over three NC State defenders by T.J. Worley with under two seconds left. Yes, it took a questionable intentional foul call on Courtney Fells with under a minute remaining. But it was the 39 minutes prior to those plays that really cost the Wolfpack a win.
The Pack jumped out to a 13-4 lead to start the game only to fall asleep and let the Privateers come back with over five scoreless minutes. The team did the exact same thing to start the second half, going on a quick 11-2 run to take an 11-point lead only to let New Orleans right back into the game by scoring two points over the next five minutes. The lackadaisical play turned the Pack into just another victim of early season upsets.
"I didn't think it was going to happen to us," Degand said. "Considering we've been watching it on Sportscenter day in and day out you would think we would not let that happen. But I guess it can happen to anybody."
Lowe said he even stressed the point to the team before the game, but clearly the message didn't sink in for the Pack. The team was out-rebounded despite having a huge size advantage over the Privateers, and they turned the ball over 14 times on a variety of miscues and lazy passes.
"We've preached it and talked about it over and over again. We talked about other teams, highly ranked teams that lost games like this." coach Sidney Lowe said. "We didn't come out and play the way we think we are capable."
J.J. Hickson scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Gavin Grant added 20 points and six rebounds but the rest of the Pack team was relatively silent. The bench scored just three points and Ben McCauley, who averaged over 14 points a game last season played just 14 minutes and scored just two points.
"With J.J. Being in that line-up, Ben, Dennis and Trevor coming off the bench, we should be able to play together because these guys have been here," Lowe said. "It's a matter of discipline and being unselfish. They need to not worry about how many minutes they're getting."
Grant put some of the blame for the loss on internal conflicts that he said shouldn't be happening.
"It's just players. It's nothing between coaches and players it's between players and players. They're having issues with each other that they shouldn't have," Grant said. "It's nothing that I want to talk to the media about, it's between the team and the team."
Now, the Pack has to try and right the ship as it heads on the road for five straight games.
"I want to see if we grow," Lowe said. "If we take this experience tonight and use it and understand that feeling. I told them 'I hope you really hurt right now.'"