What could go wrong often did for the NC State men's basketball team, who suffered the worst home loss ever at PNC Arena on Saturday.
The Wolfpack had little go right in getting drilled 76-45 against visiting Virginia in front of 15,623 fans at PNC Arena. NC State coach Mark Gottfried tried to keep the game in perspective, crediting Virginia's impressive offensive performance and lamenting the problems his team faced in falling to 11-5 overall and 1-2 in the ACC.
"Virginia played terrific basketball and you have to give them credit," Gottfried said. "I don't know that they can play better and I don't think we can play any worse. A perfect storm. We were pitiful in the first half, and offensively the whole game.
"We were bouncing it off our foot, throwing it out of bounds, and threw it to nobody. We weren't cutting and we weren't moving, just no zip."
Virginia improved to 12-4 overall and 3-0 in the ACC, having overcome their watershed moment where much didn't go right for them in a 87-52 loss at Tennessee on Dec. 30. NC State cruised by the Volunteers 65-58 on Dec. 18.
"We were pretty locked in defensively, and their [NCSU] youth showed and they were flat," UVa coach Tony Bennett said. "They were really cold and were off, so that helped. Coach [Gottfried] has done a really good job with his team, he really has."
Virginia sophomore center Mike Tobey had 16 points and seven rebounds, and senior small forward Joe Harris had 16 in 20 minutes. Fifth-year senior power forward Akil Mitchell added eight points and 12 rebounds in the win.
NC State was never in it from the start, falling behind 21-4 with 11:36 left in the first half. The lead eventually grew to 30-9, and 48-25 at halftime.
"There was a lot of intensity in the locker room amongst each other," Gottfried said. "Not in a negative way, but encouraging. They were hurt and felt like they could play a lot better. There was some fire from them, which I liked."
Virginia proved dominant on the boards 40-28, and even had a 12-4 advantage on the fastbreak. The Cavaliers routinely turned the Wolfpack's mistakes into points, capitalizing on 16 turnovers, including nine in the first half. Whatever NC State tried didn't work the players commented.
"They were ready to play and we missed a couple of shots we normally make, and capitalized on all our turnovers," NCSU junior shooting guard Desmond Lee said. "It was very frustrating and everybody was looking at each other and was like, 'What is going on?' What is happening?' It was real frustrating to me."
Gottfried believed the Wolfpack defended better in the second half, but then the team couldn't score. NCSU shot an abysmal 6 for 26 after halftime and 13 of 45 for the game (28.9 percent). It proved to be one of those games, and only Lee and Ralston Turner, both junior wings, were able to crack double figures with 10 points.
"We just continued to offensively struggle to put the ball in the basket," Gottfried said.
Virginia stifled NC State sophomore small forward T.J. Warren, who never got into the rhythm of the game. Warren entered the game averaging 23.4 points per game, which ranked fifth in the nation and led the ACC, but he mustered just four points on 1 of 9 shooting.
Warren had scored in double figures in every game this season, and last was held to single digits against Temple (four points) in the NCAA Tournament loss.
"You have to give Virginia credit, they defended him really well," Gottfried said. "At the same time, he had a tough night, a very unusual night for all of us that watch T.J. play on a regular basis."
Lee couldn't remember ever losing by 30 points in a game at any level. NCSU freshman center BeeJay Anya pointed out that Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic recovered from a 75-25 loss to Jersey City (N.J.) St. Anthony's his sophomore year on national television Jan. 15, 2011.
"That same when it happened, we won the championship," said Anya, who had three points and four blocks, including a memorable one at the rim against Tobey. "We'll see if the same thing could happen. We have to play hard from the beginning. We can learn from and let this fire help us."
NC State will have to pick up the pieces on the road the next two games. The Wolfpack play Wake Forest on Wednesday and Duke on Jan. 18. NC State has won its last three games on the road - Tennessee on Dec. 18, UNC Greensboro on Dec. 30 and Notre Dame on Jan. 7 - but also have lost the last three at home.
Lee isn't sure why the team has been playing better on the road than home, but that apparently is the case of late.
"I think we are just more focused and all we have is ourselves out there on the road," Lee said. "Everybody is in tune with each other and talking. Everybody is doing what they are supposed to do. We just have to come to play from start to finish like on the road."
Gottfried called each of the 18 ACC games "little battles" and each important.
"We aren't looking out at two games, three games," Gottfried said. "We are looking at one game. We have to get ourselves ready to play the next game."