DAYTON, Ohio -- On the 30-year anniversary of N.C. State’s dreamy run to the national championship, the current version of the Wolfpack had a first-half nightmare on Friday.
N.C. State’s first NCAA game of the 2013 season was also its last, as the Wolfpack lost to Temple, 76-72, on Friday afternoon.
The Wolfpack sealed its own doom with a terrible start, trailing 38-22 at halftime. By then, coach Mark Gottfried – who has never won an NCAA tournament game in consecutive years -- had called two early timeouts. Glares, befuddled looks and strong words had been exchanged in the team huddles. Temple’s players -- led by Khalif Wyatt, who ultimately had 31 points and was the best player on the floor -- had gained immense confidence.
N.C. State then came storming back in the second half as Scott Wood finally got hot, making two three-pointers to get the Wolfpack within three. Lorenzo Brown had a three-point shot with 90 seconds that would have tied it. But that missed, and Wood missed another three, and Temple made a few free throws and soon enough it was over.
It seems strange to say a team dramatically underachieved after it won 24 games, but that’s what this N.C. State team ultimately did. It was No.6 in the country in The Associated Press preseason poll, ahead of both Duke and North Carolina.
But the Wolfpack ended up only finishing No.5 in its own conference by seeding for the ACC tournament, then only got to the ACC semis. Gottfried admitted after the game that the team had struggled with immaturity at times this year and with "sustained" and "maintained" defensive effort.
So a Wolfpack team that had made a run to the NCAA Sweet 16 a year ago, had just about everyone back and added three McDonald’s All-American recruits lost in the round of 64 this time. And the loss came to a No.9 seed, a Temple team that has been mostly known in recent years for its own “one-and-done” NCAA tournament exits.
N.C. State played the second half like it should have played the first, and if it had we would be talking about what a State-Indiana matchup would look like on Sunday. But this N.C. State team was consistent only in its inconsistency, which made Friday’s effort – one good half, one bad one – a fitting epitaph for an unfulfilling season.