Facing a Presbyterian team that is now 1-18 in its first year as a Division I basketball program, NC State once again came out of the gate with whimper. For the second straight game, they fell behind at the half and had to rally to pull out a 50-43 win on Saturday afternoon at the RBC Center. But, for the sixth straight game, the Wolfpack came out on top.
"It's kind of frustrating right now," Gonzalez said. "We just weren't mentally ready to play this game."
Gavin Grant led all scorers with 14 points and also added six rebounds and seven assists. Courtney Fells was the only other Pack player in double figures with 10 points. J.J. Hickson, coming off a 33-point performance, scored just four points.
"They were all over J.J. [Hickson]," Grant said. "I guess they heard about last game so they came in here prepared."
Neither team got a lot of points at the free-throw line either. The referees whistled only one foul in the entire first half and the Pack wasn't called for a foul until 28 minutes into the game. All but a handful of the Pack free-throw opportunities came in the final seconds when Presbyterian intentionally fouled to lengthen the game.
"That was crazy, I dunno we don't have the whistles in our mouth," Grant said. "We might have committed a few fouls – I know they did. But we don't have the whistles."
The Pack had yet another first half to forget, as the Blue Hose jumped out of the gate and grabbed the lead. They held that lead for most of the half thanks to an atrocious 1-of-11 shooting effort from the behind the arc by the Pack, taking a 20-17 lead into the locker room.
"We did come out sluggish," Grant said. "We couldn't make anything – we were 1-for-11 in the first half. I think that played a part in us being down."
Presbyterian completely shut down the Pack inside game by playing a sagging zone that left open shooters on the perimeter but kept the ball out of the paint. The defense was particularly willing to leave point guard Javier Gonzalez wide open. The freshman had three wide open looks from the top of the key in the half but missed all three.
"Coach Lowe told me 'you have to start hitting some 3s,'" Gonzalez said. "You have to make them come out and guard you to open up the paint a little."
Gonzalez and his teammates both found their stroke in the second half, making the Blue Hose zone pay for leaving shooters open. The Pack went 5-for-7 from behind the arc in the half as the Pack grabbed lead and hung on for the final few minutes.
"We have to make those shots," Lowe said. "Even against the zone we tried to punch it down low. They were determined to make us shoot from the perimeter and we finally started making shots in the second half."