TSX: More Shots Needed for Smith?

Tracy Smith, by far North Carolina State's best player, got only eight shots in Wednesday's loss to Maryland.

For a team struggling to score the ball, it just seem unfathomable that Smith wouldn't receive more opportunities.

Coach Sidney Lowe said part of the blame goes to Smith, who was held to just 10 points, his lowest output since Jan. 16.

"We told Tracy to kick it out and duck in. He wasn't aggressive enough," said Lowe. "We wanted him to kick it out and re-post deeper. We just weren't physical enough in the second half."

But starting shooting guard Scott Wood said the players weren't doing a good enough job of force-feeding Smith inside.

"If I had my choice, I would be more than happy to give him all of my shots," Wood told the Raleigh-Durham News & Observer. "He's the best player. He'll make a ton of money some day. We just have to get him the ball. If we get him the ball on the block, I don't think he can take a bad shot."

Either way, the Wolfpack, losers of seven straight ACC games, has got to find something to build on down the stretch if they want to take any momentum into the offseason.

Their first opportunity to get things headed back in the right direction comes Saturday against Wake Forest, a team North Carolina State lost by eight at home to way back on Dec. 20.

The Wolfpack faithful watched in dismay as Maryland quickly erased a 10-point halftime deficit and cruised to a nine-point victory.

It's the seventh straight ACC loss for North Carolina State and also the seven straight to the Terrapins. Coach Sidney Lowe has never beaten Maryland.

Early on, it looked like both of those streaks might come to an end, as the Wolfpack took advantage of a sluggish start by Maryland to build a double-digit lead in the first half.

But the offensive woes that have plagued the Wolfpack since their January upset of Duke resurfaced in the second half.

Leading scorer Tracy Smith was held to just 10 points, and point guard Javier Gonzalez failed to score.

--Since going off for 31 points in an early January win at Florida State, freshman forward Scott Wood has reached double-digits just three times. He's been held to just one made field goal in four of his last eight games. Wood and backcourt mate Javier Gonzalez are still getting open looks, thanks to constant double teams on Smith inside, but just aren't knocking them down. The Wolfpack is shooting 34 percent from the floor during its seven-game losing streak.

--Just when it looked like point guard Javier Gonzalez was busting out of his shooting slump, the junior goes 0 for 5 and finishes with no points against Maryland. Gonzalez shot the ball well in last week's loss to North Carolina, going 5 of 12, including 3 of 6 on 3-pointers against the Tar Heels.

--Freshman forward Richard Howell, who had been the Wolfpack's most consistent option of the bench, did not play against Maryland. Howell cut his leg during warm-ups before the Virginia Tech game on Feb. 2. He played just three minutes against the Hokies and 16 minutes against North Carolina. He missed the Maryland game with a thumb injury and is day-to-day.

Athletics Director Lee Fowler has said that Sidney Lowe will be the Wolfpack's coach next season, despite this year's dismal 2-10 mark in the ACC.

"We're disappointed to be 2-8," Fowler told the Raleigh-Durham News & Observer. "We want to be 8-2, but we're encouraged by how this group is playing and the group of players we're adding next season."

Those remarks came before State lost at North Carolina on Saturday and at home against Maryland on Wednesday.

In Lowe's defense, North Carolina State lost its top three scorers from last year and its top recruit to prep school.

"Every time we look at the film, we see certain areas where we just break down, and a lot of it is understanding really how to win and how important it is each and every play." -- Coach Sidney Lowe, after the loss at North Carolina.

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