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February 4, 2010

Quick hits from NC State's loss at Virginia

Quick hits and notes from NC State's 59-47 loss at Virginia in front of 10,092 fans at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va., Wednesday night.

Play of the game

It was sure to make every highlight reel for the night. Virginia junior guard Mustapha Farrakhan was free on the fast break after a Wolfpack turnover in the second half and Virginia leading 43-36. Farrakhan paced his steps to go for an emphatic dunk at the rim. NC State junior guard Javier Gonzalez though was also setting himself up to challenge Farrakhan's shot. The end result was not pretty, for NC State.

Farrakhan posterized Gonzalez with a strong one-handed dunk, and Gonzalez fouled him on the play. Farrakhan would make the free throw, giving the Cavs a 46-36 lead, the first double-digit advantage of the contest for UVA, with 6:57 left in the game.

Player of the game

There were not great standout performances in this game. UVA senior center Jerome Meyinsse got the Cavs off to a good start and finished with 10 points and four boards before fouling out. Farrakhan had a great second half and finished State off en route to scoring 11 points off the bench. Both nearly doubled their scoring averages for the year.

Our choice for player of the game however is junior forward Mike Scott, who finished with a workmanlike game-high of 15 points and added 10 rebounds for his 14th career double-double and the fourth of this season. Scott, who shot 6 of 9 from the field, had his last double-double against Penn State Nov. 30.

What is going on with the second half offense?

For the third straight ACC game, NC State struggled mightily after halftime on offense. Against Virginia, NC State made just 7 of 24 shots for 29.2 percent, 1 of 7 from long range and also was just 4 of 9 at the line. This continues a trend that started after the Pack defeated Duke 88-74 Jan. 20 behind 58.2 percent shooting that night in the RBC Center.

In State's next contest, an 88-64 loss at Maryland Jan. 23, NC State made just 10 of 36 second half shots, or 27.8 percent, and 2 of 12 from downtown. Three days later while hosting UNC, NC State made just 9 of 31 field goals (29.0 percent) in the final 20 minutes, 4 of 12 from three-point range.

Adding up the numbers, in the last three second halves of ACC games NC State has shot 26 of 91 from the field for 28.6 percent. Their accuracy on three-point shots is 7 of 31 for 22.3 percent.

Sidney Lowe has said repeatedly this NC State team has a small margin of error. When you look at the Pack's two ACC wins, one came when freshman wing Scott Wood had a career night at Florida State and the other came when State was executing at a high level against Duke. NC State simply cannot win games shooting the way they have in the second half of the last three ACC games.

The 47 points Wednesday night was a new low for a Lowe-coached squad at NC State and the first time one of his teams scored fewer than 50 points. The last time State had scored fewer than 50 points was when they lost 45-42 at Iowa in the Big 10/ACC Challenge Nov. 30, 2005.

At least one guy played well

Freshman power forward Richard Howell deserves kudos for being State's player of the game. He came off the bench and played 22 minutes, scoring a team-high 14 points and grabbing a co-team high eight boards. Howell made 5 of 9 shots from the field, but he did struggle at the line, making 4 of 7. For Howell, it was a new career-high for scoring and the first time in he has ever led the Pack in points.

Junior power forward Tracy Smith started off strong and played hard, totaling 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting, but other than those two the contributions were limited. The other eight players on the team combined to score just 21 points in 144 minutes.

Senior forward Dennis Horner and junior point guard Javier Gonzalez, coming off the bench for the second straight game, each had seven points. But Horner did not grab a single rebound in 18 minutes, part of the reason UVA had a commanding 40-30 edge on the boards.

Gonzalez did not have a single assist in 21 minutes, part of the reason that the Pack had a season-low six assists as a team. Starting point guard Julius Mays also struggled, going scoreless and adding no assists himself in 18 minutes. In Mays' back-to-back starts, he has a total of two points, missing all five of his shots, and dishing out just two assists.

It's also safe to say that Wood is in a slump. Since the Duke win, Wood has scored a total of 15 points in four contests, shooting 5 of 25 from the field and 5 of 18 on threes. He was 1 of 6 overall Wednesday night, 1 of 4 on three-pointers.

What the loss means

NC State falls to 14-9 overall and 2-6 at the halfway point of the conference season. The Pack remained tied with Miami for last in the conference. Virginia improved to 14-6 overall and a surprising 5-2 in the ACC, tied with Duke atop the league standings. Duke hosts Georgia Tech Thursday night.

NC State now has an 80-56 lead in the overall series with the Cavs, but Virginia sweeps the Pack in coach Tony Bennett's first season in Charlottesville. Virginia is now 36-23 in games playing in their home arena versus the Pack. State is winless in three trips to the new John Paul Jones Arena, which is proving to be a tough place for the Pack to score in. NC State's highest scoring output there has been just 62 points.

Other stats of note

• Both teams had 28 points in the paint.
• NC State actually had a 12-6 edge in points off turnovers, but neither team turned it over much. NC State had six turnovers while UVA had eight.
• The Pack's bench outscored Virginia's 21-19.
• Neither team got into transition much at all. The Cavs had a 4-2 edge in fast break points.
• UVA turned a 13-9 edge in offensive rebounds to a 12-6 advantage in second-chance points.


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