RALEIGH, N.C. — Despite an impressive offensive performance, the N.C. State Wolfpack’s defensive woes continued Saturday in a 93-88 loss to Wake Forest at PNC Arena.
While the Wolfpack (13-7, 2-5 ACC) shot 52 percent from the field, it wasn’t enough to make up for a lack of defense and a large discrepancy in free-throw shooting.
“I thought our guys gave us a great effort,” N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried said.
“You got to give Wake a lot of credit. They stepped up and made some big shots late in the game.”
The Demon Deacons (12-7, 3-4) picked up their first Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) road win under third-year head coach Danny Manning.
“People are going to say what they want, write what they want” Manning said.
“For us, I don’t know if it’s a monkey off our back. All I know is it’s a win in the right column. That’s all we care about.”
Highlights: Wake Forest 93, N.C. State 88 – ACC Digital Network (TheACC.com)
Led by sophomore forward John Collins’ 21 points, Wake Forest shot 43 percent from the field as a team despite going just 6-for-22 from behind the arc.
“He’s really good,” State guard Torin Dorn said.
“He worked on his game. He got a lot better since last year”
Collins was a mismatch for the Pack in the paint, and at times was able to score at will around the basket, evidenced by his 8-for-11 field goal shooting performance.
Outside of Collins, the Demon Deacons put together a balanced offensive effort with five of their eight players scoring in the double digits.
“I think defensively we’re giving points away at times,” Gottfried said.
“We’re not going to shut everybody out; we know that. But I think we had some mental errors defensively that it just seems like those add up against us pretty quick, so that has to get better.”
The Wolfpack went to the zone defensively and was fairly successful, but the team’s biggest problem came from giving Wake second chances.
The Deacs had 13 offensive rebounds, 18 points off turnovers and 17 fast-break points
“They didn’t really score on our set defense,” Wolfpack guard Torin Dorn said.
“They got a lot of offensive rebounds and points off turnovers”
Offensively, forward Abdul-Malik Abu had a breakout performance, scoring 20 points — his first double digit scoring performance since Jan. 4 against Virginia Tech — on 9-for-14 shooting and adding seven rebounds.
“When I made a couple early, I knew I was on and just wanted to keep shooting,” Abu said.
“I felt like I had the hot hand, and I just wanted to be confident and keep shooting and just stick to the principles that we work on every day.”
Freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. struggled with his shot, but still managed 15 points and 13 assists for the Pack.
In such a close game, free throws proved to be a huge difference with Wake shooting 29-for-33 compared to N.C. State’s 16-for-27 performance.
“We have to convert on the free-throw line,” Dorn, who went 3-for-6 at the stripe, acknowledged.
“Myself, I’m the first one who needs to get better on the free-throw line. We’ll get better.”
With the Wolfpack trailing by just a couple possessions in the final minutes, it seemed to be stuck on the wrong side of some controversial calls by the officials.
The biggest of which came with just seconds remaining and down by 3 as N.C. State forced a turnover underneath the Wake basket.
Official Jamie Luckie blew his whistle, signaling that Pack guard Terry Henderson had stepped out of bounds after gaining possession of the ball, thus giving it to the Deacs.
The officials did not review the play but it appeared Henderson in fact did not step on the baseline.
“He [Luckie] said he didn’t need to review it,” Gottfried said.
“Life moves on.”