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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / March 24.
  • NC State Coach Mark Gottfried Sounds Off Following Loss to Georgia Tech

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    By MIKE McCURRY

    North Carolina State showed little to no fight in an 86-76 home loss to Georgia Tech on Sunday, but head coach Mark Gottfried certainly did afterward.

    On Tuesday, following a loss at Boston College, Gottfried fooled nobody when attempting to underplay a poor all-around effort from his team by saying ‘I told our team we got better tonight. We took a big step forward.’

    The sixth-year NC State coach did not go the sugarcoating route on Sunday, instead sounding off for the icing on the cake to a three-game losing streak mostly by questioning the toughness of his players.

    “Our team better learn how to get a little tougher—bottom line,” Gottfried said. “Better get a little mentally tougher and we better make a decision at some point whether we’re going to guard anybody. It’s real simple.”

    Gottfried having finally cracked upon being asked about his squad’s general disinterest on the defensive end is a storm that had been brewing for a while.

    On January 4th, NC State convincingly roughed up Virginia Tech, 104-78, appearing to turn a corner in the process. The Wolfpack had a 12-3 record at the time.

    But in the three subsequent games—losses to UNC, Boston College, and now Georgia Tech—NC State has submitted three of its worse defensive performances of the season. The Tar Heels, Eagles, and Yellow Jackets have averaged 89 points per game, scoring 1.18 points per possession and making 48 percent of their three-point attempts over this span.

    The Tar Heels, Eagles, and Yellow Jackets have averaged 89 points per game, scoring 1.18 points per possession and making 48 percent of their three-point attempts over this span.

    Entering Sunday, Georgia Tech had been a combined 10 of 45 (22 percent) from behind the arc thru four ACC contests. They proceeded to hit 10 of 16 from “3” against NC State.

    “I would venture out of the 16 they took—and I think they made 10—I don’t know, out of the 16, I bet you about 12 or 13 of them, they could have tested the wind,” Gottfried said. “They had that much time to get them off.”

    The Wolfpack’s defensive issues are not just confined to being late when closing out on jump shooters, either. Freshman Josh Okogie led Georgia Tech with 27 points on Sunday; two of those came on an uncontested dunk off an inbounds play, when it seemed that some NC State players were adhering to man-to-man principles while others sat in a zone.

    “It’s on me,” Gottfried said. “I’ve done a bad job.”

    NC State is far too talented to be freefalling out of the NCAA Tournament’s at-large picture this early into the conference slate.

    Freshman Dennis Smith Jr. is a star and the projected No. 3 pick in the upcoming NBA draft per Draft Express. He dropped a career-high 31 points versus Georgia Tech to go along with 8 rebounds and 6 dimes.

    The Wolfpack also have Draft Express’ No. 31 projected 2017 selection in Omer Yurtseven, plus other capable options in Terry Henderson, Torin Dorn, Abdul-Malik Abu, and Maverick Rowan.

    Gottfried, who indicated he is long past the point of using youth as an excuse, did say that his team displays satisfactory energy and enthusiasm during practice.

    Until that translates to game days again, expect more press conference blowups similar to Sunday.

    It’s a safe bet to assume that Gottfried’s adversary, Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner, enjoyed a much rosier locker room atmosphere.

    The Yellow Jackets are sitting at 3-2 in the ACC, ahead of Duke (2-3).

    That’s also three more league wins than some experts predicted back in the fall.

    Photo: @PackMensBball

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