Pack Hoops: Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange reviews the year to date and looks forward to the conference schedule and beyond. Check out the full Wolfpack Report here on Pack Pride.

North Carolina State was holding a 10-point lead over Virginia and seemed headed for its first conference win when suddenly the Wolfpack went cold and lost the lead and the game.

"Our lack of mental toughness was a disappointment," coach Sidney Lowe said after the 70-62 loss to the Cavaliers. "To get a lead and let down mentally was very disappointing.

"We just didn't play well. Our main three guys didn't play well today."

Leading scorer Tracy Smith was right at his season average with 18 points, but Dennis Horner and Javier Gonzalez combined for only 18 points -- nearly six below their average -- and missed all of their five three-point attempts.

The Cavaliers seemed to frustrate the 'Pack by going to a four-guard offense.

That particularly affected the 6-9 Horner, who eventually fouled out, and 6-8 Richard Howell.

"It changed because it brought Dennis and Richard out on the perimeter," Lowe said. "While we let them make some plays on their end, we didn't take advantage on the offensive end. This was an opportunity for us to go the paint and get a foul."

The loss dropped the 'Pack, which lost is ACC opener in December by two points at Wake Forest, to 0-2 in the league. The 'Pack goes on the road for its next game (Florida State) and then is home to Clemson and Duke.

--Coach Sidney Lowe pointed to a rules change for a key play that went against his Wolfpack in the loss to Virginia. F Dennis Horner was called for a charge on a drive, negating a basket that would have given the 'Pack an 11-point lead midway through the second half.

Lowe lamented the lack of a line that would designate a "no charge" area under the basket to help officials with the call. "It's just a bad rule," he said in the Raleigh News & Observer's report of the game.

--The losses to Wake Forest and Virginia marked the fourth time in four seasons under Lowe that the Wolfpack has begun conference play 0-2.

Free throw shooting has been a critical failing for the Wolfpack. The 'Pack was only 16-of-26 after going just 9-of-16 in the second half against Virginia and is only 43-of-74 (58.1 percent) in its last four losses.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's disappointing again because that's what we're doing in practice. We need guys to step up under pressure and make their free throws. We've got to get them in tomorrow and shoot more free throws." -- Coach Sidney Lowe, after the Wolfpack went 16-of-26 (9-of-16 in the second half) from the free throw line.


The Wolfpack has lost four of its last seven games to fall to 11-5 on the season and 0-2 in the ACC. Shooting has been a common problem with the 'Pack hitting only 40.0 percent in the four losses combined (37.9 in three of them) and 51.4 percent in the three wins during that span.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Dennis Horner, F Tracy Smith, F C.J. Williams, G/F Scott Wood, G Javier Gonzalez. Key Subs -- C Jordan Vandenberg, G Julius Mays, G Farnold Degand, F Richard Howell, F Josh Davis

IN FOCUS: The Wolfpack is going to have to get solid play from Gonzalez in the backcourt against FSU's tenacious defense. Both teams are turnover prone and rank at the bottom of the ACC in turnover margin.

Senior G Farnold Degand was in double figures for the first time this season with 12 points in the win over Holy Cross but scored only five against Virginia before fouling out.

--Senior F Dennis Horner has scored in double figures in four of his last five games after scoring 18 points against Holy Cross and 12 against Virginia.

--After scoring just nine points against Winthrop after serving a one-game suspension for his criticism of the officiating in the loss to Wake Forest, junior F Tracy Smith as averaged nearly 20 points a game over his last four outings. He is 29-of-51 (56.9 percent) from the field in those games.

Pack Pride Top Stories