We’ve seen it from this team several times this year: a late push to erase a substantial fourth-quarter deficit to right a tough day and salvage a win. And NC State nearly did it again. With less than a minute left, State had the ball down two, with a chance to make its mistakes a memory.
It just didn’t work out this time. When the Wolfpack looks back on that fourth quarter, it’ll wonder how it was ever in the position of needing a furious rally to begin with. The answer to that, of course, is turnovers—and a surprisingly poor third quarter.
These games come with tight margins, and NC State picked a really bad time to start fumbling the ball all over the place. In a one-possession final, State finished -8 in turnover margin. It’s not a coincidence that State rallied in the fourth quarter where it turned the ball over only once. Shooting was not the problem.
To Indiana’s credit, the Hoosiers took full advantage of State’s turnover problems in the second and third quarters. I don’t think the better team won this game, but certainly the more opportunistic one did. The Hoosiers pried that turnover margin into a critical edge, and they were an impressive 29-51 inside the arc. It’s not a simple thing to score like that in the paint against this NC State team.
Indiana also did a tremendous job on the defensive glass, limiting NC State to just three offensive rebounds. That’s an area where if it goes differently, NC State definitely can overcome its turnovers, given the way it had been shooting.
It’s tough to walk away from this game and feel like it was anything but a missed opportunity, and that hurts. NC State is once again deprived of playing for a Final Four appearance, once again heads into an offseason wondering how to make that next step.
But this is an uptown problem, and NC State isn’t going anywhere. Everything sucks right now, but they’ll be back.