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February 9, 2009

Quick hits from NC State's loss to Virginia Tech

Quick hits and notes from NC State's 91-87 overtime loss to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., on Sunday afternoon.

Play of the game

NC State opened the door for Virginia Tech, and the Hokies walked right on in when senior wing A.D. Vassallo drove to his left on the baseline and rose over NC State senior wing Courtney Fells for a baseline jumper with 17.9 seconds left to tie the game at 76-76. NC State was unable to win it in on the last possession, and Virginia Tech was the better squad in overtime to get the win.

Player of the game:

It came in a losing effort, but Wolfpack senior center Ben McCauley was great in defeat. He was one-point off a career-high with 25 points and added 12 rebounds for his 13th career double-double and seventh of this season. McCauley did set a season-high and ACC-high in points, surpassing the 20 he had against East Carolina on Dec. 17 and the 20 he had against Virginia Tech in 2007.

McCauley did much of his damage from the line where he was 13-of-15 shooting, setting career-highs on both free throws made and attempted.

What happened?

NC State seemed to be cruising in this game. With 12:57 left, the Wolfpack was up 63-45 with the ball when sophomore point guard Javier Gonzalez missed a 3-pointer. NC State got the offensive board, but Fells turned the ball over and Virginia Tech sophomore point guard Hank Thorns had a fast break.

Fells hustled back to try and block Thorns' layup. Thorns hit the court hard and immediately grabbed his head in pain. Fells was whistled for an intentional foul. Replays showed that Fells clearly made an attempt for the ball and in fact almost made a clean block on the play. Thorns hit his head when he stumbled to the ground and ran into the padding on the goal.

Nevertheless, despite reviewing the play on the monitor, the officials upheld the intentional foul. Sophomore guard Dorenzo Hudson came in and made a pair of free throws and then nailed a 3-pointer. Virginia Tech got a steal and another 3-pointer from sophomore point guard Malcolm Delaney to conclude an 8-0 run in a matter of literally 40 seconds to get back into the game.

How did State not finish it off?

Several factors contributed to State's fall. The offense that was razor sharp in the first half became anemic in the final stages of the game. After Fells' jumper to go up 63-45, NC State got just two field goals in the final 12 minutes of the game. The rest of the Pack's points came on free throws by McCauley. NC State also had 11 of their team's 22 turnovers in that stretch.

Curiously, despite a need for offense, sophomore forward Tracy Smith sat on the bench for most of the second half. After scoring 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting in 13 minutes in the first half, Smith only played seven minutes in the second half and did not attempt a shot.

In addition, redshirt junior power forward Brandon Costner also went scoreless in the second half after having 13 points at the break.

NC State shot 17 of 29 in the first half for 58.6 percent. For the remainder of the game they were 10 of 26 for 38.5 percent.

Of course, two missed free throws by junior forward Dennis Horner with 31 seconds left did not help matters.

Virginia Tech gets hot, too:

The Hokies shot just 38.2 percent from the field in the first half, making 13 of 34. However, they finished the game by making 15 of 26 second half shots for 57.7 percent. Virginia Tech also got key contributions from a pair of players that they normally do not get much from.

Sophomore forward J.T. Thompson, who averages just 4.5 points per game, scored 12 points, his second highest total of the year. Hudson, who averages 3.5 points per game, contributed eight points, two off his season-high.

Virginia Tech also got typical scoring outputs from their big-three. Vassallo led the way with 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting. Sophomore low post player Jeff Allen was big with 21 points and eight rebounds. Delaney was only 3-of-12 shooting, but he made all 11 of his free throw attempts for 18 points to go with four assists.

More line-up changes:

Gonzalez got the start at point guard, and freshman C.J. Williams was back in the rotation after not playing against North Carolina Central in a 28-point Wolfpack rout last Tuesday night.

Gonzalez had nine points and six assists in 36 minutes, but he also had five turnovers. Gonzalez's backup, freshman Julius Mays, had three turnovers himself. NC State's 22 turnovers matched a season-high for NC State, and it was the second-straight game of at least 20 turnovers. That came after a stretch of three straight contests where the Pack had a total of 29 turnovers combined.

Gonzalez played 36 minutes, his most extensive action of the year. Gonzalez had played a total of 33 minutes since the East Carolina contest on Dec. 17.

Redshirt junior Farnold Degand did not play. Also not playing was redshirt junior guard Trevor Ferguson and redshirt freshman small forward Johnny Thomas, who was coming off a career-high of nine points against NC Central last time out.

The game represented State's 10th different starting lineup of the year.

State's loss by the numbers:

Wolfpack head coach Sidney Lowe suffered his first loss in five games against Virginia Tech. The Hokies were just 1-6 against the Pack in ACC contests before Sunday, and the win snapped a six-game State winning streak in the series. NC State had also won 17 of the last 19 games overall, and their overall advantage over the Hokies dropped to 34-11.

NC State has also reached the halfway point of their ACC slate at 2-6. Last year at this time, coming off a Virginia Tech win at home, NC State was 4-4 in conference action. The last time State got off to such a slow start in ACC play was 2000-01 when they also started 2-6 under Herb Sendek before finishing 5-11 in the ACC and 13-16 overall.

It was also the first loss in overtime for Lowe, who had been 5-0.

Other stats of note:

• NC State out-rebounded Virginia Tech 40-34 overall, but it was an even 11-11 on the offensive glass. The Hokies had a 10-6 advantage in second-chance points.
• Virginia Tech dominated in the paint to the tune of a 48-26 advantage.
• Virginia Tech used the 22 turnovers to get a 26-16 edge in points off turnovers. Virginia Tech turned it over only 14 times.
• The Hokies had a 15-8 advantage in fast-break points.
• Tech's bench outscored State's reserves 18-10.


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