"We just talked about this ball game and where we are and what we need," coach Sidney Lowe said. "Just like any other team in this country there are certain guys that they count on to play well and there are guys that we need to play well to win."
Thanks to stellar play from the second unit, the Wolfpack held a 63-59 lead with six minutes remaining. When Florida State tied the score up at 63 all Lowe brought senior Ben McCauley and junior Brandon Costner off the bench after sitting the two forwards for nearly 10 minutes. The results were disastrous, with the Seminoles outscoring the Pack 15-2 the rest of the way en route to a 78-65 win on Tuesday night at the RBC Center.
"We had a group of guys that really got there and got after it. Played well for us and got us the lead," Lowe said. "We were looking for your veteran guys to come back in and finish the game."
Instead of finishing the game, those players gave it away.
"I couldn't sense the team's spirit going down but I didn't like what I saw when I made the change," Lowe said.
Lowe repeatedly said after the game that all teams need certain players to step up and his team is no different. Costner, the Pack's (9-5, 0-2 ACC) leading scorer, had 10 points but after scoring seven points in the first five minutes of the game was held to just three the rest of the way. McCauley, the team's second leading scorer, had just five points in 24 minutes against the Seminoles (14-3, 1-1).
Two other starters, Farnold Degand and Trevor Ferguson, combined for no points and didn't see the court in the second half. Ferguson's hand injury continues to give him problems with his shooting and ball handling according to Lowe, but Degand's lack of playing time in the second half was purely a coach's decision.
"I wasn't happy with his play," Lowe said.
But Lowe said he was extremely pleased with the play of his second unit, particularly Johnny Thomas, Julius Mays and C.J. Williams. That group helped keep the Pack in the game for most of the second half, lead by the heady play of Mays who scored a team-high 13 points.
"The line-up we had in was just playing hard from the end of the first half," Mays said. "Defending, getting stops, not letting them get offensive rebounds or second chances. We made a couple of substitutions and it changed a little bit."
Williams credited the success of the second unit with the chemistry they've developed practicing together.
"We've practiced together a lot and we know what each other's strengths are," Williams said. "We know how each other plays and we know what each can't do so we put ourselves in situations to do what we can do."
In front of its home crowd for the first time in nearly two weeks, the Pack jumped out to a 12-4 start thanks to seven quick points from Brandon Costner. But the crowd couldn't keep the 'Noles from a staging a huge run in the middle of the half, tearing off a 22-4 streak by forcing the Pack into turnovers and defending close to the rim.
But the Pack wouldn't stay down despite a 12-minute run in the first half where the team scored four points. They turned a 12-point deficit into three points by the halftime buzzer thanks to a near-flawless final three minutes. The Pack scored 15 points in those final three minutes and went 7-for-8 from the free-throw line. The home team shot just 39 percent in the half compared to 52 percent for the Seminoles but still managed to stay within a possession.
The Pack stayed with the 'Noles most of the second half thanks to some improved shooting and unlikely contributions from its bench. Mays scored 11 of his 13 points in the half as the Pack took a 63-59 lead before falling apart over the final minutes. The Pack will try to end its three-game skid at home on Saturday against Georgia Tech.