N.C. State topples Tech 86-65

Tech’s basketball team came up short for the second time to in-conference foe North Carolina State, 86-65, who gave the Jackets their worst loss since the 2005-06 season. Tech, now 1-10 in ACC play, stayed within striking distance for most of the game on Saturday at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, but couldn’t hold on as they lost control in the final minutes.

Despite improving on past weaknesses, the large amount of turnovers, only losing the turnover battle by five, the Jackets were still unable to pull out a win due to their poor field goal percentage and lack of ability to get to the foul line. The Jackets shot just under 39 percent from the field for the game, while the Wolfpack managed to shoot over 60 percent for the game. N.C. State also had 29 attempts from the free-throw line, in comparison to Tech’s 13.

The Jackets quickly came out of the gate, taking an 11-5 lead after sophomore forward Alade Aminu blocked State sophomore forward Tracy Smith’s jumper, passed ahead to the freshman sensation Iman Shumpert, and watched as Shumpert drained a three-point shot from near the top of the arc. The lead, however, didn’t stand for long as N.C. State quickly began to capitalize off Tech’s mistakes.

“I thought after starting the game with a lot of energy, we missed some easy baskets [and] had some opportunities that we really should’ve cashed in on,” said Head Coach Paul Hewitt.

Tech continued to keep it close early in the first half with exceptional ball movement. The Wolfpack was struggling to find their defensive rhythm, continually having to chase the ball around the arc. This allowed junior strong forward Zachery Peacock to have room inside to seize an offensive rebound and put the ball back in the air for an easy layup with 10:18 to go in the first half. But this strong offensive play was negated on the very next possession as State freshman guard C.J. Williams beat everyone down the floor to get a wide open look and drain a three-pointer.

The Jackets were struggling to make the easy baskets close to the rim that they had grown accustomed to early on in the season, and State continued to build their lead. With 8:18 left in the first half, Peacock missed a layup only to have Aminu get the offensive board, and Aminu also missed the put-back. Sophomore guard Lance Storrs was able to jump up and get the rebound, but his put-back also missed wide of the mark as Tech was unable to benefit from two offensive rebounds under the basket.

“It wasn’t one of our better efforts. . .we got some steals and just missed some easy baskets around the lane, and [we] didn’t capitalize,” Hewitt said.

As the final seconds ticked off the first half game clock, the Jackets were down eleven points, 44-33.

Tech came out to start the second half with a jolt of energy as their pressing, full court defense caused a State turnover. The Jackets were able to capitalize off of this one as Clinch passed inside to Lawal, who made a strong move toward the basket and ended the play with a roaring dunk.

On the following possession, freshman guard Moe Miller was able to seize another turnover, and, on the fast break, made a double clutch move under the basket to shed his defender and sink the layup, cutting the lead to only three points at 47-44. But the Jackets never could get closer than this as N.C. State was continually able to out-rebound Tech and consistently get to the foul line.

N.C. State managed to keep Tech’s leading scorer and rebounder in check as strong forward Gani Lawal was 3-8 from the floor, with a total of seven points and three rebounds. “Foul trouble certainly took him out of it. . .usually if he stays out of foul trouble, he’ll figure it out as he goes along. But he picked up those two fouls, and we had to go offense-defense with him, and he couldn’t really get a rhythm,” Hewitt said.

Lawal ended the game having played a total of twenty-two minutes.

The story of the game for the Wolfpack was the play of sophomore forward Tracy Smith, who was continually able to dominate inside with Lawal’s absence from the floor. Smith ended the game with 18 points and 10 rebounds in State’s win.

One bright spot for Tech on the day was the play of the dynamic true freshman guard Iman Shumpert, who led the Jackets in scoring with 14 points.

“Iman has been shooting it well…. He kind of took it upon himself to try to get us ignited…. That’s what you need, and that’s why I think he’s got a chance to be a really good player, because he doesn’t mind stepping up and putting himself on the line,” Hewitt said.