Streak Grows to Eight, Pack Falls 78-67

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- It won't be the Les Robinson Invitational, but NC State has assured itself of being the last seed in the 12-team field when ACC Tournament play starts on Thursday.

The Wolfpack's losing streak grew to eight straight after falling to Wake Forest 78-67, and the team that was once .500 in conference play is now .500 overall.

The Demon Deacons (17-12, 7-9 ACC) jumped out to a 20-8 lead in the game's opening eight minutes, propelled by guards Jeff Teague and Ishmael Smith. The Pack had trouble defending the pair, who combined for 39 points on the day.

State (15-15, 4-12 ACC) had plenty of opportunities to take the lead in the first half after spotting the Deacons the early lead. But each time the deficit was cut to one possession, Wake had an answer.

Back-to-back three's from Gavin Grant and Trevor Ferguson cut the lead down to 22-20, and Grant tied the game 22-all on a fast-break steal and lay-in.

But Wake still didn't take a backseat to the Pack thanks to James Johnson's two baskets and two free throws from David Weaver. Their baskets snapped an almost seven minute scoring drought for Wake.

State brought the lead back down to one and had the ball when Ben McCauley was whistled for a charge as he kicked the ball back outside. With the 28-27 lead still in hand, the Deacons went on a 7-2 run to end the half up six, 35-29.

It was a common pattern on the day according to coach Sidney Lowe. When the Pack made key stops, it often answered with a turnover on the other end rather than chipping into the lead.

"We had 16 turnovers and I would dare say 12 of those were really unforced turnovers where we made errant passes or traveled with the basketball," Lowe said. "You can't go down on the offensive end and turn it over and give it back to a team. We did that again today and it definitely hurt us."

The Pack climbed back into it again in the second half, whittling the Wake lead down to 47-45 and again had the ball.

Ferguson hoisted a 3-point attempt that could have taken the lead, but it went in-and-out and the rebound was taken away from Brandon Costner by Teague.

Teague took it the length of the court and converted the old-fashioned three-point-play at the other end for a 50-45 lead.

Any chance of a State upset was effectively ended when Teague scored in breakaway fashion to up it to a nine-point lead with under three minutes remaining.

As State moves on to start play in the ACC Tournament, it will now have to win at least one game to narrowly avoid its first losing season in seven years.

A year ago, the Pack just missed an automatic bid to the Big Dance when it became only the second team to ever play four games in the ACC Tournament and fell in the championship game to North Carolina.

It will take the same type of Herculean effort to get there this year.

"As you can see, we're a different team now. Hopefully we can make the same run and finish strong like we did last year," Grant said. "We'll have to figure out who we're playing and go in there and try give them a fight."

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