Despite a valiant effort in the second half, N.C. State lost to Georgia Tech, 90-83, dropping to 11-10 on the season and 1-7 in the ACC on Wednesday night at PNC Arena. It was the Wolfpack’s fourth straight home loss and the Yellow Jackets’ first road victory in the conference.
Cat Barber made the start after suffering a knee injury against Duke, but the Pack couldn’t find a way to rally around him. Defensive lapses and ineffective shooting outside of Barber and Abdul-Malik Abu (22 points, 11 rebounds) did State in once again in ACC play.
Before the Pack’s next home game against a surging Miami team, let’s take a look at what we learned from the loss to Georgia Tech.
Don’t get me wrong, he may have finished with 36 points on the night, but it was clear from the start Barber wasn’t completely healthy. The Pack’s floor general looked timid at the beginning of the game, rarely driving to the basket with his normal veracity.
Barber settled for outside shots with limited cuts with mixed results. During the first half, Barber missed his first three shots before hitting his next four. He finished at 5-of-13 and finished at 13-of-28 on the night.
While Barber was able to settle into a groove and did eventually slash to the basket twice late in the second half, it was all for naught. But if the outside shot is working like it did during streaks for Barber on Wednesday night, he can still be one of the most prolific scorers in the conference.
Abu Coming Into His Own
For those who haven’t noticed, Abu is becoming a key ingredient for the Wolfpack’s offense.
Unfortunately, that offense is struggling outside of Barber and Abu. The sophomore big man combined with Barber to finish with 58 of the State’s 83 points along with 15 of the team’s 31 rebounds.
Still, Abu finished with his eighth double-double in the last 11 games. His growth as a sophomore might not do much for this team this season, but could go a long way for next year. Considering Barber will likely return, having a more developed Abu inside with Dennis Smith outside should be encouraging for N.C. State fans.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t make this season any better. 2017 feels like a long way away at this point.
Cold From Deep
The Wolfpack fell behind in the first half after going 0-of-5 from behind the arch, including two misses from Maverick Rowan. He finally found his touch in the second half with two straight threes to put State within striking distance, but couldn’t sustain it late in the game.
Overall, State finished at 6-of-14 from three against Georgia Tech thanks to some desperation threes that fell in the second half. Suffice to say, it wasn’t enough when the defense isn’t making stops on the other end.
On the night, State finished slightly better than GT from behind the arch, but didn’t come out of the gate with any accuracy from deep. Teams like Miami and Duke – two of the Pack’s next three opponents – will certainly make them pay with size down low to pull in defensive rebounds.
Why did State need this win so bad? Well, let’s just say the upcoming slate doesn’t look friendly.
Up next, the Pack hosts No. 15 Miami (16-3) on Saturday after the Hurricanes trounced Duke Monday night. After falling to a team that had yet to win a conference game on the road, State gets to tangle with a Miami team that is 1-2 away from home this season.
For a team reliant on just two scorers, Abu will have to battle inside with 7-footer Tonye Jekiri in the paint. That, my friends, is not a good matchup. And it doesn’t get any easier for Barber, who will need to be at full strength against Sheldon McClellan.
The Canes are a senior-laden team with Jekiri and McClellan serving as just two stars along with Angel Rodriguez. State has pulled off more surprising wins this season over Pittsburgh and, well, just Pittsburgh. But with the insanity of the ACC this year, anything is possible.