|Off Reb Rate||30.0||47.5|
State's defense was excellent in the first half, and although they didn't keep Carolina off the glass, they were able to limit to Heels to well under a point per possession. That changed in the second half as State's defensive rebounding went from poor-but-bearable to completely nonexistent. Carolina grabbed 58% of their missed shots in the final 20 minutes and hit 14-of-25 two-pointers after a 9-for-25 effort in the first half. That allowed the Heels to score 1.3 points per trip, and NC State couldn't match that level of efficiency. So once again two-point shooting and rebounding proved the difference in the game.
It felt like the Pack controlled the first half, and even as the Tar Heels rallied to claim the lead, the game felt manageable. The second half was a different story; Carolina took the initiative from the start and it felt like it was all State could do to delay the run that would put the game away.
Still, their effort carried them through moments that would have crippled them on other occasions. Vandenberg and Scott Wood committed their fourth fouls in quick succession after the team had tied the score at 50, and that could have been enough to send the game south for good. When they went down eight points with a little over six minutes left, I figured they were done, but they rallied with a couple of buckets and would have gotten much closer than four points if they just could hit a few damned free throws.
The end came with two and a half minutes to go, the Pack down five. Kendall Marshall turned the ball over, which led to a transition opportunity that Ryan Harrow botched with an uncharacteristic giveaway. Carolina used the subsequent possession to hit a three and extend the lead to eight; that five point swing was the backbreaker.
They beat us with a superior effort down the stretch, which was plainly evident on the boards. They were sharper, found better shots. We killed ourselves with bad shot selection, which we'd been fighting all night. All year, really. It's amazing to me that a team so lacking in basketball IQ can take such good care of the basketball.
Good night, red blazer. I'm sorry it had to end this way.