When the final buzzer sounded in NC State's heart-breaking loss to Florida a week ago in Gainesville, Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe was proud to see how the team responded.
The players were upset, frustrated and new they gave a win away in the 68-66 loss to the Gators. It was the kind of reaction that Lowe wanted to see, and gives him hope that better things are ahead with NC State starting its ACC schedule at 12 p.m. today at Clemson.
"They took it very hard, and you know me, I like to see that," Lowe said. "That tells you that one, they wanted it, and two, that it hurts. While it might sound bad, I want them to hurt."
The mindset that evolved with last year's nine-game losing streak to end the year has disappeared. The Wolfpack expect to win today against Clemson, and avoid the pain that goes with losing.
"You want them to say to themselves that you never want that feeling after ball games," Lowe said. "During the game, you do everything you can so you don't walk into that locker room with that same feeling. It tells me that they certainly believe in themselves, and believe that they could have won that ball game."
Clemson has raced out to a 15-0 start and No. 12 ranking in the country. Power forward Trevor Booker, small forward K.C. Rivers and point guard Demontez Stitt were all starters on last year's NCAA Tournament team. The Tigers' experience and fullcourt pressure defense will be a good challenge for NC State, who just faced a similar style team in Florida.
Lowe often talks about where his players "head is at." He likes their mental toughness, which has been put to the test with close losses to Davidson, Marquette and Florida, all by a combined 10 points.
"When you get to a point where the guys are thinking that way and feeling that way, now you start doing it every day," Lowe said. "As a coach, you sit back because you know they have it. I think we are getting there."
NC State (9-3) at No. 12 Clemson (15-0)
Game time: Today, Jan. 10 12 p.m. — Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, S.C.
PG — 12 Farnold Degand (6-3, R-Jr., 4.6 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 1.4 apg)
SG — 15 Trevor Ferguson (6-5, R-Jr., 7.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.4 apg)
SF —4 Courtney Fells (6-6, Sr., 11.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.0 apg)
PF — 33 Brandon Costner (6-9, R-Jr., 14.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.0 bpg)
C — 34 Ben McCauley (6-9, Sr., 13.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.3 spg)
PG — 2 Demontez Stitt (6-2, Soph., 8.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.5 spg)
SG — 22 Terrence Oglesby (6-2, Soph., 13.5 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.5 apg)
SF— 1 K.C. Rivers (6-5, Sr., 15.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.7 spg)
PF — 35 Trevor Booker (6-7, Jr., 14.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.3 spt, 2.5 bpg)
C — 12 Raymond Sykes (6-9, Sr., 8.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.5 apg, 1.0 bpg)
Location: Clemson, S.C.
2007-08 record: 24-10 overall, 10-6 ACC (third place)
2008 postseason: Lost 75-69 to Villanova in the first round of the NCAA Tournament
Coach: Oliver Purnell, 21st season overall (365-259), sixth at Clemson (109-68)
The all-time series with NC State: NC State leads 95-44
Last meeting: Clemson won 71-64 on Feb. 16, 2008 in Raleigh
Clemson: Clemson has rolled to its 15-0 start with four wins at against schools from power conferences, three of which were on the road. Clemson won at Illinois, at Miami to open up the ACC season and at South Carolina. They recently won Tuesday at home against Alabama. Wins at Temple and at Charlotte also highlight the Tigers difficult early-season schedule … Following Clemson's game against NC State, the Tigers get a week off, but then face No. 4-ranked Wake Forest at home Jan. 17, and at No. 3-ranked North Carolina on Jan. 21 in back-to-back contests … Booker has recorded four double-doubles for points and rebounds, and has six games with 10 or more rebounds. He has been held in the single digits for four games … Oglesby has shot eight or more three-point attempts in five games. He went 6 for 10 from beyond the arc against East Carolina and has hit four or more three-pointers in five games … Clemson has four players with ties to North Carolina — Charlotte native Rivers, Stitt from Matthews Butler High and both Catalin Baciu and Jonah Baize attended Veritas Christian Academy in Fletcher, N.C.
NC State: NC State is 31-24 all-time in ACC openers, including 14-16 in road openers. NC State opened up at North Carolina last year and at Virginia for the 2006-2007 season … Ferguson returned to practice this week after missing three games with a non-displaced fracture of the fourth metacarpal bone on his non-shooting hand, which was suffered in the Marquette loss … NC State has used six different starting lineups in its 12 games so far. Three different players have started at point guard, shooting guard and small forward. … McCauley is 68 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists away from reaching 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists … The Wolfpack's top four scorers are all shooting at least 50 percent from the field, including McCauley who is ranked second in the ACC with 57.5 percent.