Immaturity, inconsistency doom NC State
Posted March 22, 2013
Updated March 23, 2013
Dayton, Ohio — In the end, the problems for North Carolina State came in the beginning.
Yes, that was the case on Friday as the Wolfpack fell behind by double digits early and were ousted by Temple in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, 76-72.
“In the first half, we came in there and didn’t bother to defend as well as we should, turned the ball over 10 times and they turned about every turnover into a basket,” said head coach Mark Gottfried.
And yes, that was the case for the season as a whole, as the Wolfpack impressively plummeted from a preseason No. 6 ranking to beyond the receiving votes cutline.
“When you come in the season with a target on your back like we had, people are going to give you their best shot,” said senior forward Richard Howell. “There were times when we came out and didn't give other teams our best shot. That's something that you have to do when you have a target on your back, especially at the start of the season.”
Didn’t give teams your best shot? Competitive sports creed No. 1: always give it your best shot.
The issues did not stem from talent. NC State was one of the most talented teams in the nation this season. All five starters averaged better than 12 points per game. There were future NBA players in every huddle, team meeting and practice.
The issues lied in maturity, continuity and consistency.
“I think this team struggled with a lot of things; number one, we had some immaturity at times,” Gottfried said. “It just seemed hard at times to have everybody buy in all the way. And for us to get better in the future, everybody needs to. Our young guys need to learn that lesson.
“At times this year that just seemed to be a struggle for our group. That was a hard thing for us to overcome basically all year long, from the way we started,” Gottfried added. “Some of the young guys, some of the older guys, and building character every day and doing things right every day, putting the team first, and then personal success and glory comes later.”
The Temple game was a microcosm of the season. The Wolfpack got the first bucket of the game on a Calvin Leslie dunk, and then fell behind 12-4. They were able to draw even at 15, and then fell behind by 16 at half.
NC State shot 70 percent from the floor in the second half, scored 50 points and was able to pull within a single possession multiple times in the final minutes. When the clock hit triple zeros, however, they came up short, and their impressive play for the final 20 minutes was overshadowed by their disappointing first 20.
“I really thought we were going to play well, play early,” said Gottfried. “Great, great days in practice leading up to today. Great energy in our locker room, and then we just started slow, and I don't think defensively we were nearly as good as we should have been early.”
The Wolfpack highs were high – much like their 10-game winning streak that spanned into conference play. Their lows were low – similar to their seven-game stretch in late January/early February where they dropped five conference games.
“I think at the end of the day, you have a team that had a good year but didn't have a great year,” Gottfried said. “It was good but not where I wanted it to be.”
Turning good to great
NC State will lose seniors Howell and Scott Wood next season, at least. The futures of Leslie and Lorenzo Brown are uncertain. But there is still undoubted optimism for the program going forward.
After posting 48 wins in a two-year span, tied for the most since 1982-83, the state of State is better now than when the upper classmen joined. They have a corps of top-tier talents with one year under their belt and a subsequent class with equally high promise.
“Me and Scott are definitely leaving a better place than what we first got to NC State,” Howell said. “It's been a great experience, especially these two years with Coach Gottfried and the type of turnaround that we all had.”
“We've been here through the ups and the downs. We both came here for pretty much the same reason, to put NC State back on the map,” echoed Wood. “We know it's in good hands with Coach Gottfried, and he's going to do everything he can to make them improve. I like where it's at, and I know Coach Gottfried is going to continue to do a good job with it.”
Words to keep in mind: consistency, maturity and giving it your best.