When Charles Dickens penned the classic, “A Tale of Two Cities,” he alluded to “the best of times, the worst of times.” That literary double could be applied to the plight of North Carolina State Wolfpack basketball this very moment.
Coach Mark Gottfried saw immediate national success last season with a Sweet 16 appearance, then the Pack was picked in most publications to win the ACC this season. They started out 14-2 with a resounding win over Duke to add to that mix.
Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried has seen his squad lose four ACC games by a total of seven points. (NC State Athletic Media Relations)
However at Maryland in mid-January Alex Len tipped in a Pe-shon Howard miss with 0.9 second left and the Wolfpack began a consistent pattern of nightmarish close losses with that 51-50 loss in College Park.
Nearly a week later at Wake Forest, NCSU had a 16-point first half lead as the Deacons had no answers for the more talented Wolfpack squad. However, out of halftime, Wake erased a 47-35 deficit and took a 66-64 lead with 9:57 to play. At that point, NCSU could not get the momentum totally back on it’s side and lost 86-84. C.J. Leslie and Rodney Purvis missed field goals in the last 10 seconds that could have tied the game and possibly forced overtime, but good fortune was not to be.
“It’s very frustrating; we have got to find a way to close games better,” noted Rodney Purvis who had 13 points, two boards, and two assists in 27 minutes in yesterday’s loss to Miami, “Every single one of those games, we had control in the first half and in the second half, we seem to give those up at the end.”
Then, just last week, Leslie had to come off the bench due to illness, but still scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. The most unfortunate experience was the ankle injury to point guard Lorenzo Brown early in the game. That allowed Virginia to be able to control the tempo and defeat the Wolfpack, 58-55.
Saturday, it was the Maryland game all over again. North Carolina State led Miami by five with a little over two minutes to play. A pair of late turnovers were converted into Durand Scott scores. Then as Miami drew to within 78-77, back up point guard Tyler Lewis missed a jumper as the Hurricanes took the board and called time out with 10 seconds remaining.
Out of the time out, guard Shane Larkin beat Lewis off the dribble to the right side, shot and missed and there was 6-10, 292-lb., Reggie Johnson on the left side for the tip in and the extension of North Carolina State’s woe.
“A situation like that, lucky things always seems to happen.,” said Purvis, who stared on the point for the Wolfpack, “I don’t care what game it is. I’ve seen that happen over 100 times. A guy gets a shot off and as long as it hits the rim somebody can tap it in.”
This was the first time Purvis had been on the point for any extended period of time as Brown sat out due to injury. He said that Gottfried tried to get him to relax and just let the game come to him.
“That was really my first time coming out and playing the point guard,” explained Purvis, “I was a little jittery. There are no excuses for the turnovers I had early in the game. I take credit for those turnovers and I am going to work on those.”
Brown was doubtful on Friday and the decision was made to hold him out before Saturday’s game. Losing his athleticism and play making skills obviously cost the Wolfpack, but with Purvis now getting his indoctrination into the role he will have on the point, his comfort level should be fine now if Brown has to miss multiple games. The only problem is it shortens the depth of the Wolfpack, who have only six players averaging double figures in minutes.
“Lorenzo is a big part of our team and when he is out, everybody has got to step their game up,” said Purvis, ”Even with the three freshmen we have, I feel like we came out and played well today. It can be C.J., Richard, or anybody. We just have to come together and close games out.”
- Ken Cross
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