NC State lost 67-55 to North Carolina despite leading for most of the first half and controlling the tempo. Of course, a favorable pace and committed effort can't overcome sloppy turnovers, poor perimeter shooting, an uncharacteristically low level Anthony Barber game and questionable officiating. State had 18 turnovers, twice the amount of UNC. Neither team shot well - 40% for NC State and 37.9% for UNC. However, the Tar Heels shot 19 free throws compared to ten for State.
The game was tied 29-29 at the half before NC State's inability to shoot grew into a massive detriment. The Wolfpack were hopeless to stretch the floor with Maverick Rowan going 4-15 from the field and 2-8 on triples. Barber only had nine points on 4-11 shooting.
The shining performer for NC State was Abdul-Malik Abu, at least from an effort standpoint. 5-for-14 from the field for a big man isn't exactly efficient, but Abu amassed 12 points and 14 rebounds before fouling out. If some of the instances in which Abu was hacked in the paint were called, perhaps his point total would've been higher.
A problem in this game was State's other big men failing to chip in. BeeJay Anya and Lennard Freeman combined for just five points. Their inability to impact the game on the offensive end has been a theme all season. State simply lacks shooters and post presences.
For UNC, Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige were completely held in check. Johnson didn't seem to have control of his emotions during this six point/two rebound performance. Paige went 0-6 from deep and 1-9 overall in totaling three points. Containing Paige to the degree that State did was a definite surprise.
Shutting those two down would also seem to fit into a potential Wolfpack upset, but Kennedy Meeks helped trump this prospect. He had 23 points and six rebounds as State's big men were hopeless to stop him. Joel Berry II also had a strong showing for the Tar Heels. He put up 14 points which included a 3-5 performance from three-land.
NC State only played seven men in this contest, something we've grown accustomed to. Maybe the heavy minutes and lack of depth contributed to Cat's forgettable showing. He appeared passive throughout the entire game. With Cat struggling, a rarity during his remarkable season, no one else was able to pick up in the production area.
Cody Martin started and racked up 10 points, while Caleb Martin came off the bench for nine. If Cat isn't reaching the foul line or scoring in the twenties, someone else needs to have a major performance. That didn't happen, and truthfully, it hasn't happened nearly enough during this dreadful early run through the ACC.
In the big picture, the Wolfpack now stand at 0-5 in conference play. I can't imagine any of us anticipated this start. Terry Henderson's injury was ominous when it occurred and remains a huge reason for State's poor offense, but I expected at least a couple of conference wins by this point.
An ideal scenario would've been Henderson returning with State in a decent position and his arrival being the difference maker. That's beyond cloudy now, and all State can truly cling to is Cat's special season. Nothing else for the Wolfpack is particularly positive.
It doesn't get any easier with Pittsburgh and Duke next on the schedule. The Pitt game will be a road one on Tuesday, January 19th at 8:00 PM ET.